Paramore is finally back with a satisfying record

by Ryo Miyauchi

05_07_13_ParamoreCover_FueledbyRamenPop-punk band Paramore has been through a lot these past few years. After the release of Paramore’s third album, “Brand New Eyes,” in 2009, tension led founding members Josh and Zac Farro to leave the band.

As he split, Josh Farro wrote an eye-opening blog post offering his reasons for the split, which claimed Paramore was a manufactured band created to launch Hayley Williams’ solo career. With the departure of its core members and a torn image, the fate of Paramore seemed to be jeopardized.

After a few years of inactivity, Paramore has returned to the scene in 2013 now as a three-piece with a new record, appropriately self-titled “Paramore.” In the record, Paramore strives to move forward from its tainted past by focusing on the future. The band makes this clear with the leadoff song “Fast In My Car,” as Williams briefly backtracks to the past before quickly speeding off ahead. Paramore kicks off with a tighter sound in “Fast In My Car” as a tough band unafraid to face what lies ahead.

Right from its first three tracks—“Fast In My Car,” “Now” and “Grow Up”—“Paramore” introduces a completely new mold for the band. Paramore previously crafted anthemic singles such as “Now.” The song has a huge build of arena-rock and the offbeat raw music is satisfying. After the stadium single, the band throws another curveball with fuzzy pop rock “Grow Up.” In “I told them all to stick it,” Williams sings with a fun hip-hop-like cadence, before the song concludes with a synth-pop sweep. Compared to Paramore in its polished punk days, this is a huge leap.

Paramore does include tracks following more of the pop-punk sound of the band’s past, but the songs are safer compared to the band’s risky efforts. “Last Hope” has the band digging in a more somber place with an exhausted guitar riff. “Be Alone” rocks away in an edgy punk guitar. Both of the tracks could fit in the band’s previous record “Brand New Eyes.” But in an album full of risks, these tracks sound too safe. Paramore is here to reinvent itself, so it makes sense that the “Part II” of “Let the Flames Begin” from its 2007 record “Riot!” is the weakest track of the album.

But reinvention does not mean complete abandon for Paramore. The switch-up in sound may be radical, but the band’s excellent songwriting welcomes both new and old fans. In “Ain’t It Fun,” Paramore brings back a funk reminiscent of ‘90s pop mixed with the band’s signature pop punk. It’s easily one of the most upbeat and feel-good songs on the record, as it hones in on the band’s playful personality. Although Paramore remains serious throughout the record, it’s exhilarating to hear the band members loosen up and have fun as they try out new ideas.

It’s a joy to listen to Paramore have fun again, and to appreciate Williams’ lyrics. In “Brand New Eyes,” Williams wrote some dark material about being criticisized and proving her worth. Overall in the new record, Williams sounds much more optimistic. Her writings of growing up and moving on from her dark past are surprisingly cheerful and empowering. Williams gets skeptic about the future at times, but her bright and confident songs stand out from the darker tracks.

Out of the many tracks in the album, “Still Into You” succeeds best on both genre mashing and songwriting exploration.

From the sweet rush of the guitar and the instantly gratifying chorus sung by Williams, “Still Into You” is a lovely Paramore classic that pushes the band’s boundaries. Instead of falling into romantic cliches, Williams brings personal experiencing into the pop song. The band stuffs cowbells and synthesizer swirls seamlessly, and the extra details don’t clutter the track one bit. It’s a simple love song with a lot to say, and Paramore nails it.

All the members of the band give a great effort outing its new identity in “Paramore.” The record’s 17-track package is quite lengthy for a Paramore album. “Paramore” is scattered, sounding like a sampler of where the band could go rather than a definitive statement. The record celebrates the process of creating a new band more than the finished product.

“Paramore” ends with the final track “Future,” a desolate post-rock jam riding into oblivion. The conclusion may be anticlimactic, but “Future” gives the sense that the Paramore story is still unfinished. Fortunately for Paramore, the band’s future looks bright with endless possibilities.

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