Review Summary: Paramore might not be tapping into anything new, but it has finally hit its stride, making pop-punk anthems that match the praise it garnered with its average debut.
Somehow, any discussion on Paramore boils down to Hayley Williams. A force to be reckoned with at the petite height of five-foot-one, Hayley carried what is otherwise a lackluster album with All We Know Is Falling
, sometimes getting buried under but never forgotten amongst the band’s pop-punk flavoring. The band was striving for a sound it couldn’t quite master yet; this hardly mattered, though, and soon it was cemented in the Fueled by Ramen line-up, sticking out like a well-placed sore thumb. In concert, Paramore’s sound becomes tighter and louder, Hayley controlling the stage like only someone so determined and well handled can.
It’s this showmanship that was sorely lacking in their debut, and what they have finally hit on with Riot!
, a spunky, Hayley-driven vehicle that nonetheless proves that Paramore justly deserves whatever critical acclaim it was getting. This point is driven home the second the album starts with ‘For A Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic,’ where Hayley doesn’t have to scream to be heard over the noisy production, giving her vocals some freedom to change octaves and show she has the chops to make it. The peppy ‘Optimistic’ is just a solid start for the album, giving time to let Hayley move through its quieter verse to its soaring chorus of fluent riffs before giving way to a start-stop mechanic in ‘That’s What You Get.’
’s quieter moments are handled without heavy-handed schmaltz, lending, if not a more subtle then a more experienced hand to its musicianship. ‘We Are Broken,’ while far from a conventional ballad, carves itself in as the slowest track on the album, piano driven and letting Hayley give her vocals some emotional range. Her wavering through the hook towards a labored (but not forced) chorus shows that she can hold her own when it comes time to switch up the tone. She gives Avril Lavigne a run for her money, if that means anything at all. But other than this shining moment for Hayley, Riot!
is a pop-punk anthem for girl power, like the riff-heavy ‘Misery Business’ that proves as catchy as it is just plain good. “I’m in the business of misery; let’s take it from the top. She’s got a body like an hour glass; it’s ticking lock a clock
,” Hayley bites, speaking out against any girl who would dare try to take a man from her.
But none of it is terribly original, just mastered; with ‘Fences,’ Paramore follows a similar Panic! at the Disco tempo (think ‘But It’s Better If We Do’ without any aping from Gatsby’s mechanics) while ‘Hallelujah’ sounds like a power heavy, all female Fall Out Boy (suspiciously similar to Fall Out Boy’s own ‘Hum Hallelujah,’ but not enough to warrant attention). Hayley is particularly good here, hitting a high note with “Screaming, ‘Halle-lujah!’
” that shows how skilled she has become. Still, most of it is too catchy and matured to write off as derivative, with stylish tracks like ‘Let The Flames Begin’ beginning slow and brooding before flying out with a trembling chorus.
Paramore might not be tapping into anything new, but it has finally hit its stride, making pop-punk anthems that match the praise. In the self-conscious and guitar grinding ‘Born For This,’ Hayley sings (with contest winner Mary Bonney), “Right now, you’re the only reason I’m not letting go; time out if everyone’s worth pleasing
,” and the band is ready to accept any loss or gain they make with fans. That the band took on a fan to sing with them is a testament to how much they do care what their fans think, but they’re willing to sacrifice some if it means they’re doing what they want to. “We were born for this!
” the band group chants before bringing it to the chorus, “Everybody sing like it’s the last song you will ever sing. Tell me, tell me, do you feel the pressure?
” As the album's closer, Paramore may still feel uneasy and in need of reassurance. As it stands, Riot!
easily proves that Paramore doesn’t need any, and gives the genre the best release this year.