Released Apr. 9th on Fueled by Ramen/Atlantic Records
When brothers Josh and Zac Farro split from Paramore nearly 3 years ago, they did more than leave their guitar and drum spots vacant: They also stripped the band of one of its primary songwriters (Josh) and left a trail of bad blood on their way out the door via an exit letter that seemingly legitimized every complaint detractors had made against Paramore from the beginning; namely, that the group was “a manufactured product of a major label, riding on the coattails of ‘[singer Haley Williams’] dream’.” The remaining members—Williams, guitarist Taylor York, and bassist Jeremy Davis—rallied and rebuilt (drums on this record were mostly played by Angels & Airwaves’ Ilan Rubin). It’s no coincidence that this album is self-titled; it’s a clear declaration of new purpose from Paramore. In the first lyrics of opener “Fast in My Car”, Williams lays out the drama of the past few years:
Been through the ringer a couple times
I came out callous and cruel
And my two friends know this very well
Because they went through it too
The three of us were initiates
We had to learn how to deal
And when we spotted a second chance
We had to learn how to steal
Hollowed out and filled up with hate
All we want is you to give us a break!
Paramore is far and away the group’s most adventurous and accomplished work, seeing them mature beyond their pop-punk Warped Tour origins into an accomplished, pop-savvy rock band. Working with producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen, who also helped Tegan and Sara try new things on Heartthrob, the trio embraces a bevy of new sounds on this record, from keyboards, synths, and heavy guitar effects to orchestral string sections and even a gospel choir. They segue down numerous musical avenues but never let up on the hooks and explosive choruses, as on alt-rock first single “Now”:
Elsewhere, the band dives into electro-rock (“Fast in My Car”), new jack swing (“Ain’t It Fun”), soft balladry (“Hate to See Your Heart Break”), and ’60s pop (“(One of Those) Crazy Girls”). Not that the Paramore of the past is gone completely, as the soaring stadium rock of “Daydreaming” and pop-punk abandon of “Anklebiters” illustrate. Pretty much all these songs are hook-filled, huge, and infectious, but in a much more assured and ultimately better way than the band ever was in the past.
Perhaps the best melding of old and new Paramore, and the album’s biggest single, is “Still Into You”, a love letter from Williams to her boyfriend, Chad Gilbert of New Found Glory. It’s upbeat, playful, sweet, and insanely catchy. It injects their already-successful pop-rock formula with a boost of electronics that pushes the songs over the cliff.
Speaking of Williams, she sounds great on this album; confident and assured, but also playful and at times snarky. Getting back to the Farro business, one of the reasons they gave for leaving was that Williams’ lyrics had started not to jibe perfectly with the text from their precious Bible (cue rolleyes). “Some of us have to grow up sometimes,” she sings in “Grow Up”, “and if I have to I’m gonna leave you behind”. It’s written as if addressed to an ex, but it’s hard not to imagine its barbs being aimed at the Farro brothers. In “Moving On” she adds “Let ’em spill their guts ’cause one day they’re gonna slip on ’em / Well I could be angry but you’re not worth the fight / And besides, I’m moving on”.
Really, the only weak moments on the album are the 3 “interlude” tracks, which consist of Williams singing cutesy lyrics over York strumming a ukulele. Apparently this was how the two worked through writer’s block during the album’s sessions, and thus they felt the uke numbers were a part of the finished product’s character. I find them very skippable, and they could’ve been excluded to whittle this 17-track album down a bit without detracting at all from the “real” songs. Ultimately, though, they don’t detract from what is a creative and accomplished work by a clearly motivated band. I may lose all punk cred for saying so, but big ups to Paramore for this one.