Glancing over Fueled By Ramen’s lineup card, it’s easy to see there’s a lot riding on Riot!, the sophomore offering from Tennessee-based pop-rockers Paramore. The band haven’t yet ascended to AP cover status like the Academy Is… or Cute Is What We Aim For (and they aren’t even close to Fall Out Boy or Panic! At The Disco), but they are definitely poised to be the next big breakout band from the label. Good-looking teenage band with good musical chops and a firebrand for a lead singer—what’s not to gush about?
Unfortunately, Riot!, while an energetic and bouncy sequel to 2005’s All We Know Is Falling, falls a few steps short of frontrunner status in the nü-emo genre. Recording for the first time as a quartet (the group parted ways with rhythm guitarist Hunter Lamb in March), Paramore-vocalist Hayley Williams, guitarist Josh Farro, bassist Jeremy Davis and drummer Zac Farro-have created 11 more-than-competent pop-rock numbers, each with a heavy, radio-ready crunch courtesy of producer David Bendeth (Hawthorne Heights, the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus). And while some of the songs-particularly the trio of “Born For This,” “Hallelujah” and “Misery Business”-are absolutely stellar, the record feels like it is a follower and not a leader.
Still, considering the median age of the band, the musicianship shown on Riot! is mightily impressive. The younger Farro brother pounds the skins brutally on “Let The Flames Begin” and finds the pocket perfectly on the perky “That’s What You Get.” A limiter throughout the record, though, is the band’s reliance on the open E chord, which is used as often as a mosh part on a Hatebreed record. However, when Davis and the Farro brothers attempt more dynamic song structures as in “Miracle,” the result is much more enjoyable. Williams, barely 18 and still developing as a singer, has definitely earned the right to be called a frontwoman for her work on Riot!. Her vocals are subdued when appropriate (see the beautiful ballad “When It Rains”) and raging when needed (“Born For This”), but throughout the course of the disc’s near-40 minutes, they’re never phoned in. Simply put, this chick can wail. Williams’ biggest fault may be her lack of life experience, which translates into relatively docile, sophomoric lyrics (“Your arms like towers tower over me,” she misguidedly writes in “Broken”). As with any young band, Paramore tend to make mistakes in some of their songs (seriously, no matter what anyone says, never record a swing song—we’re looking at you, “Fences”). But with Riot!, the band connect more than they whiff, and while the record as a whole may not be a home run, it’s solid stand-up double that keeps Fueled By Ramen’s inning alive for their next clean-up hitter.
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