No Knife - Riot For Romance! (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

No Knife

Riot For Romance! (2002)

Better Looking

No Knife should've been huge. They made all the right moves. They started out small and local, then signed to uber-indie Time Bomb [then home to the Aquabats, Social Distortion, and more], then toured consistently for a few years supporting really, really good albums. They toured with the Get Up Kids, Sunny Day Real Estate, and Jimmy Eat World, among others, and even got the nod to open up for one of Braid's last shows in 1999. They did everything right, yet fame still evaded them. Their former tourmates have gone on to become Vagrant kingpins and gold album award winners, while No Knife has quietly been left behind. The band even made one of 1999's best albums, the almost-perfect "Fire In The City Of The Automatons," and still no one seemed to take notice. Imitators of the band's sound are now stealing all of their would-be success [Counterfit, I'm looking in your direction]. So what does a band do to prove that they deserve attention again? Make a really good comeback album.

How does it fare against their peers? Well, it blows a lot of them out of the water. How does it fare against the band's back catalog? Well, it's not as good as "Automatons", but I'd rank it a close second. The guitars are as angular as ever, and Mitch and Ryan's vocal acticulation is dead on. When Mitch spits out "Fuck your slow death scene / We want a riot for romance!" in the title track, you can't help but believe him. The band also experiments with dub on this record, most notably again in the title track. "Parting Shot" sounds like Radio 4 if Radio 4 wasn't so pretentious, except for the At The Drive-In-esque freakout in the middle of the song. Quite unique, indeed. "Feathers and Furs" slows the album down as swirling organ sounds intertwine with the tightly strummed guitar rhythm. It sounds as classic as classic No Knife can be.

After this track, the album is in some desperate need of adrenaline, and it receives it in a one-two punch of the bouncy bass-and-guitar interplay of "The Red Bedroom," and the stereotypical No Knife sound of "Brush Off." Apparently the latter is the current radio single in San Diego, but personally I would put more stock in the former being a hit. The album as a whole is pretty solid until the last song, "The Moonlife." It is a slow, monotonous dirge that doesn't seem to go anywhere; this makes it an absolutely horrible closing track. I can't quite comprehend whose idea it was to put that song there, but it was not a good idea.

So like I said, overall the album is pretty darn good, and is a definite return to form for the band. My only serious complaint [besides the terrible sequencing at the end] is the presence of already released material. "Flechette," while a killer song, has already been released on two seperate releases - the band's split 7" with Sunshine, and the "Holiday Matinee Vol. 2" CD compilation. Kind of overkill, don't you think? "The Red Bedroom" also appeared on the band's split CD with Nine Days Wonder, and "Permanent For Now" was previously released on another split 7" with Lazycain. For myself, being a fan, it was disappointing seeing all this older material showing up on the release, but they all are good songs, so I suppose it's good for the No Knife newbie.

Is it a strong album? Yes. Is it top ten of 2002 material for me? Too early to say, there's still time for it to grow on me. Will I recommend it to my friends who love Jimmy Eat World and Dashboard Confessional? You bet your sweet ass I will. "Riot For Romance!" by No Knife is the perfect gateway drug for someone who's just getting into the scene - it's not too abrasive to scare off listeners, but it's original and innovative enough to keep them hooked and wanting more.

The Red Bedroom
Brush Off