Southern pop-rockers Paramore are the kind of band that err on the digestible side of rebellion. Like ‘emo’ rockers Jimmy Eat World before them, Paramore’s music falls along the teen-friendly punk spectrum but, uniquely, they remain credible in a way that eludes similar bands. This may be thanks in part to the inclusion of ketchup-haired frontwoman Hayley Williams, whose voice, an effervescent yet gritty coupling, hits all the right notes and gives Paramore a female edge over all-male competitors without the empty bravado of Avril Lavigne. Despite being voted Kerrang! magazine’s #2 Sexist Female, a dubious if lucrative honour, Williams has dismissed the importance of her gender, claiming that Paramore’s only aim is to produce good music. Indeed, one thing is certain: they know how to make some damn catchy songs.
Riot!, the band’s unambiguously named follow-up to their debut, All We Know Is Falling, lives up to its name within seconds of pressing play. ‘For A Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic’ spurts into being, breathlessly introducing Josh Farro’s lead guitar and brother Zac Farro’s signature crashing drums. The title of the track, referring to Williams’s moral victory over a disappointing ex, could well be regarded as a summation of the band’s take on the ostensibly doom-laden emo genre, which seems rather perky if compared to anything by The Cure. Oddly enough, Williams has cited the gothic quartet as a personal influence, though Paramore’s youthful, confrontational style owes little to Robert Smith’s more lyrical brooding.
‘Misery Business’ and ‘Crushcrushcrush’, two of the album’s singles, promise to have listeners fumbling for the repeat button. The former, a brilliantly cathartic song inspired by a manipulative girlfriend, explodes into frenetic guitars punctuated by Zac Farro’s drums about a minute from the track’s close before Williams successfully wrests the spotlight back to her vocals. Similarly, ‘Crushcrushcrush’ exhibits some masterly drumming and equally defiant lyrics but with a subtlety that is perhaps more accessible to newbie rockers. Skipping the sickly ‘We Are Broken’, the jaunty ‘Fences’ has a whiff of bluegrass and a warning about the perils of fame, all while hinting at the band’s genesis as a funk covers outfit. ‘Hallelujah’, meanwhile, is a radio-friendly but not unappealing guitar-flecked tune.
With the exception of Paramore’s rather un-rock ‘n’ roll stance on using the Lord’s name in vain (Williams apologised to fans for the use of ‘god’ in ‘Misery Business’), the album’s only faults arise from the limitations of its genre. Though producing some infectiously memorable tracks, it is questionable whether the band would remain sufficiently distinctive were they fronted by a man. Inevitably, too, Paramore’s brand of punk is rather teen-centric, so for those of us who have graduated from uncomfortable adolescence into perhaps more experienced forms of angst, Riot! could be a miss.
[Fueled By Ramen; June 25, 2007]