The Riot Before - Horseshoes and Hand Grenades (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Riot Before

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades (2005)

Fall of the West

The Riot Before stomp through the mildly folk-tinged, mid-tempo punk on their full-length Horseshoes and Hand Grenades with a raw aplomb not unlike that of early Against Me!. However, from this sentence alone you're not necessarily going to know straight up if you'll dig or not.

Despite the unabashed DIY-ness of the release (plastic sleeve, CD-R format, lots of crayon scribbles basically making up the cover), the production is actually just as good as any of AM!'s early EPs, if not better. It's pretty clean, in fact. That, and Brett Adams' smoother but still young and raspy voice leading the charge provides some noticeable differences. Simply put, there's stuff going on here that's keeping them fairly distinct despite the one obvious comparison. A great example is "Plastic Chests for Plastic Hearts," which definitely has that familiar guitar upstroke, but with Adams' own unique singing providing the difference. Throughout the course of the album it sounds like he downed only one or two shots of whiskey (as opposed to the Gainesville "one 40 requirement") and then laid down his parts.

Where things get really bizarre is when the Riot Before lets things drift to the quiet end of the spectrum -- which, even though is occasional, is still weird. It's first hinted at in "The Cheapest Cigarettes;" Adams seriously has a slight Adam Lazzarra-type quality to his voice when the guitars slow down and momentarily twinkle. But let the album run to its fourth track, the 1:24 "Explosions from Above," and that's where things are stunningly confounding; it's short, but it could seriously be Lazzarra's contribution to the next Punk Goes Acoustic installment. It's not necessarily bad -- it's just nowhere near the style the Riot Before seem to hold down on every other track. This outtake-like style pops up again in the earlier portions of "On Tracks Asleep Beneath the Snow" before it breaks into a more aggressive acoustic strum and gravel-sprinkled yells.

In light of really weird attempts at mixing things up (which albeit aren't all that bad, just really, really distracting), Horseshoes and Hand Grenades gets the favorable distinction of being tagged as a promising debut. It's got a good beat and versatile songwriting for such an early phase of one's career, and at this point in a band's development it's hard to ask for much more.

Fifteen Minute Revolution

You Rock, Rock [MP3]
The Cheapest Cigarettes [MP3]
In Perspective