Friday, September 23, 2016

Favorite Album Friday: Riot!

This is the first in (hopefully) a series of posts about my favorite albums - in which I will select a CD from my collection and write about each track. These are all standard full-length studio LP's; no compilations, double-albums, or greatest hits allowed. Some are well-known, others are quite obscure. I'll share a few opinions, a few facts, and embed a few videos of my favorite tracks. Hope you'll give these a listen and share your thoughts in the comments. Let's rock!!

Paramore - Riot! (2007)

Tennesee-based pop-punk band Paramore debuted in 2005 with All We Know Is Falling - a solid freshman effort with standout tracks such as "All We Know", "Pressure", and my personal favorite "Emergency." The lineup changed a bit between albums, with bassist Jeremy Davies joining brothers Josh Farro (guitar/vocals) and Zac Farro (drums). The face of the band, spunky singer Hayley Williams, co-wrote the songs with then-beau Josh Farro.

My introduction to Paramore came from my (wife's) niece, who was a pre-teen at the time of Riot!'s release. The members of the band weren't much older; nearly all of them were teenagers when the album dropped. After hearing a few of their tracks on the radio I became a fan - but once the Farro bros left in 2010 (a split they infamously announced on Blogger) the Williams-led remnants adopted a more pop-centric sound... and that's where they lost me. That said, Riot! remains one of my favorite albums of the 2000's.

Here's my track-by-track review, with a favorite lyric or two and a grade out of ten:

1. "For A Pessimist, I'm Pretty Optimistic" (7/10)

A lively start, with Josh Farro's rolling riff and brother Zac's thunderous beat bursting open the door. The lyrics and Hayley's vocal are catchy enough but the boys are the engine here. When she wails "Why don't you stand up, be a man about it Fight with your bare hands about it now" you know she's just getting warmed up.

2. "That's What You Get" (8.5/10)
This is embarrassing, but when I first heard this track on top 40 radio I thought it was a Miley Cyrus song. (I hadn't yet heard a song from either artist and Miley hadn't yet become a soft-core 'twerker'.) Zac Farro's drumming stands out again, but Hayley's vocal sounds so smooth and sunny I can't help but sing "That's what you get when you let your heart win" at the singalong cue. Bit of a guilty pleasure track for me.

3. "Hallelujah" (9.5/10)

No, this isn't a cover of the Leonard Cohen classic. It is, however, a high-spirited triumph that showcases the band at their very best. From the intro riff to the chorus "This time we're not giving up Let's make it last forever Screaming hallelujah We'll make it last forever" this track oozes hope and faith and love. I can absolutely picture myself blasting this track while driving down a picture-perfect coastal highway on my way to see my favorite girl, raising my arms to the sky and singing along as Hayley belts out the lyrics. Not that I've thought about it or anything...

4. "Misery Business" (9/10)

Ah, good ol' Miz Biz. When I heard my niece attempt to sing along to this on Guitar Hero I realized what an incredible vocalist young Ms. Williams is. The guitars and drums (hit that, hit that snare) are all on point... but this is Hayley's show, man. When she slows it down for the bridge "'Cause God it just feels so... It just feels so good" then crushes the chorus "Whoa, I never meant to brag But I got him where I want him now...." she had me hooked.

5. "When It Rains" (8/10)

A downbeat ballad with a bit of a country feel, Hayley sings this track with such a delicate tone that I had to hold back tears the first few times I heard it. "And when it rains Will you always find an escape? Just running away From all of the ones who love you From everything." Still gives me chills.

6. "Let The Flames Begin" (9/10)
The heart of the order right here. Hayley & co. follow up the first ballad with this standout track. Like a slow burn that explodes into an inferno at the chorus "This is how we'll stand when When they burn our houses down This is what will be, Oh glory" these kids are in complete control of tempo.

7. "Miracle" (6/10)

Another solid beginning by Josh... but then Hayley's vocal kicks in. "I've gone for too long living like I'm not alive" Wut? I try to cut 'em some slack on lyrics but this track lacks the depth of so many others on this album; when Hayley sighs "I just need this pain to end right here" you realize what the rest of the song is missing.

8. "Crushcrushcrush" (9/10)

The lyrics are kinda...all over the place. "Rock and roll, baby Don't you know that we're all alone now? I need something to sing about" But some of them are absolutely perfect, including one that really speaks to me: "Cause I'd rather waste my life pretending Than have to forget you for one whole minute" If you've read my blog at all you know I'm all about crushing.

9. "We Are Broken" (10/10)

"When It Rains" had me holding back tears; this somber song turned me into a puddle. The dreary tone and piano-driven arrangement is unlike anything else on the album. In live performances the band has dedicated this track to abused and troubled youth. "'Cause we are broken What must we do to restore Our innocence And oh, the promise we adored Give us life again 'Cause we just wanna be whole" Just a beautiful piece of music.

10. "Fences" (6/10)
...And then they get all Gwen Stefani on us. A funky track about the perils of fame "And it's obvious that you're dying, dying Just living proof that the camera's lying" I might like this track a bit more if it didn't directly follow their deepest, heaviest song.

11. "Born For This" (5.5/10)

I wish I could tell you that Riot! goes out with a bang, but that isn't quite the case. This track is probably best suited for live performances "Everybody sing like it's the last song you will ever sing" There's plenty of energy here, but very little substance. I wonder if Josh's background lyric "We want the airwaves back, we want the airwaves back" is directed at the top 40 charts - which Hayley has reached without him. And the call-and-response chorus seems a bit self-congratulatory - "We were born for this" - but it's not bragging if you can back it up.

Overall I'd give Riot! an 8/10 grade. Highly recommended to any fan of pop-punk, alternative, or female-fronted rock bands. If you've heard recent Paramore tracks like "Still Into You" or "Ain't It Fun" but you haven't heard these early hits I urge you to compare and contrast.


1 comment:

  1. I mostly listen to classical music so I haven't heard of most of these.