Review Summary: Paramore shed their angsty-boppin' ways and find a more varied and fleshed-out way to vent
Always been a sucker for track-by-track reviews (hate it when a critic doesn't chime in on a song I really love or hate with all my balls) so here's a track-by-track diddy I did for my website.
01. Fast In My Car
Undeniably energetic and chock-full of bounce in its step, “Fast In My Car” is a fun, if not a little rebellious and insightful, song. No doubt the three friends mentioned in the song are the three remaining band mates of perhaps the most popular female-led rock band. A simplistic but driving drum beat lead the way as fuzzy bass and sparse guitar work lay the backbone for the upbeat composition. Hayley sounds great despite there not being much content for showing off her range. What makes “Fast In My Car” such a toe-tapper is how all the elements of the song add up. I can see how some listeners could contend that the instrumental bridge is too drawn out but I promise you it’s going to be some riotous (heehee) fun when Paramore takes stage. It’s great to see Paramore take small subtle steps in maturing their sound, delving further away from their emo pop-rock sound of their first two albums and honing in on a great all-around rock sound that incorporates indie sensibilities with mainstream vocal melodies — in other words, this is song is just a good time.
The album’s lead single is a song I actually never grew fond of after the first few listens. While I still don’t think it’s great, the ska-like drum beat and Hayley’s vocals weaving through the beat in the verses have led me to believe the song is better after my initial listenings (still lacking, though). The chorus, while sing-along-catchy in a stadium arena kind of a way, lacks any real substance but hey, it’s catchy (plus the guitar adds a nice punch). Perhaps the highlight of the song besides the head-bobbing verses is the bridge. New drummer Ilan Rubin (of Lostprophets, Angels & Airwaves, and NIN fame) gets the spotlight and takes full advantage of it as he rapidly attacks the snare and tomtoms with a fury. “Now” is not a great song but it’s a fun one that’s certainly no challenge to listen to (unless you were like me at first).
03. Grow Up
You have to love the Lily Allen-esque nature of the song-writing featured on “Grow Up”. It’s lyrical content can be compared to the healthy cry of a “*** you!” but its delicious angst is wrapped up in an upbeat track that will surely get you moving. Hayley sounds just flawless here, especially in the chorus when she hits this little pseudo falsetto sweet spot –mm! And much like “Fast In My Car”, the bridge can be called repetitive and drawn out but I find myself having fun with it and dancing (at least I think what I’m doing is dancing) as I sing along. It’s an absolutely fun little jam that will have you coming back for more after album is done.
Kicking off with a Foo Fighter-esque build up before quieting down into a typical Paramore-soft verse, “Daydreaming” is an enjoyably solid mid-tempo jam through and through. The beat change-up halfway through the first chorus is a near-euphoric moment and the pace pick-up in the second verse is a nice touch of variety to the proceedings. The bridge channels a country vibe but still maintaing a rock edge as Hayley brings things down for a bit before exploding into an instrumental build-up to the closing chorus. Despite its slower nature in relation the prior tracks so far, the frequency of variety present here keeps the energy going and will surely be a get-off-your-feet song during live shows.
05. Interlude: Moving On
With nothing but a ukelele and Hayley’s voice, this interlude is a breezy and enjoyable number. There’s also some sort of hazy, old-school filter applied to the song, adding to the enjoyment of the brief track. The lyrics could potentially be about the Farro brothers (which could be said for a number of songs) or a general situation of leaving behind a situation rather than staying in a poisonous mindset. The melody is catchy and playful and the use of a ukelele rather than an acoustic guitar is a great decision on their part. Despite the interlude label, this is a song that I can definitely see myself coming back to.
06. Ain’t It Fun
Man, that bass sure is groovy, eh" And how about the addition of the hi-hats in the pre-chorus" Shmexy, I tell ya! I really, really dig the addition of the xylophone and light synth elements to add that extra layer of animated songwriting. Hayley so effortlessly glides along the track during the verses and you believe in her biting sarcasm during the chorus because she just sounds that good. The inclusion of the gospel choir to add some R&B flavor (as do the drums) is a nice way to show off some genuine creativity for Paramore, further showing how much better they’re becoming and maturing as songwriters. While Hayley is full of sassy sarcasm throughout the song, I couldn’t help but still enjoy it because the track was so well executed. So *** yeah, Paramore, this song and all before it are pretty goddamn fun.
07. Part II
Looks like Riot!’s “Let The Flame Begins” gets a sequel. Unfortunately, like many film sequel brethren before it, it just doesn’t live up to the original. Yes, it’s an entirely different style of rock (more indie than LTFB’s more straight-up rock) but it just doesn’t have that same immediate spark or anthemic chorus that “Let The Flames Begin” had. That being said, it’s still a good, solid rock number with a standout “breakdown” that has Rubin going all out on his kit amongst the sea of distortion. It’s nothing technically impressive (in terms of the guitar works, the drumming is exceptional) but it’s pretty atmospheric for sure, channeling what many underground rock bands do with their sound. Long-time fans will also let out a little “eeee!” when they hear exact lyrics lifted from “Let The Flames Begin” being sung here.
08. Last Hope
Ah, the first dud and outright boring track on the album! “Last Hope” is a flat ballad that, unless you’re planning on doing a vocal cover or can deeply relate to the lyrics, you’ll find no enjoyment in. Clocking in over five minutes sure as hell didn’t help either. Not a single thing going on in the song managed to excite me or make me go “oh, hey, that wasn’t so bad”. It even has the whole corny gang vocals at the end to champion the song, proving to be the antithesis of how not to do gang vocals (i.e., “Ain’t It Fun”‘s excellent use of a gospel choir). “Last Hope” is pretty terrible for 3/4 of the song and by the time the solid last chorus comes limping along, you might’ve already fallen asleep.
09. Still Into You
Yes, back to the lively and sugary Paramore (not in obnoxious way, either)! Except this time, the lyrics are actually upbeat and positive. If Hayley Williams singing positively about love produces jams like this, then I can get used to an angst-free Hayley. Again, subtle xylophones add an extra hop to the song’s quirk in the verses as Hayley manhandles the track throughout. The chorus is rousing and leaves no wonder as to why this is Paramore’s second single. The bouncy guitar line goes great with the song and really adds to the danceability of the track during the bridge. Hayley shows off some of her range (and how powerful she sounds hitting high notes) during the briefly quiet moment o the bridge. “Still Into You” is an album highlight and hopefully radioplay doesn’t ruin it too much.
Just when you think the intro was going into a throwback into a more pure-rock oriented Paramore, those ***ing xylophones (which I’ve loved to this point) return. While the ‘phones added personality to the songs it was used on before (I can’t believe I’m criticizing the use of xylophones on a Paramore album), this one sounds like it could have been replaced by any other instrument. “Anklebiters” is completely by-the-numbers and is nothing more than filler. It’s a one-and-done listen you’ll never want to come back to with no standout pieces in the song’s entirety. Very safe, very bland, and very ***, honestly.
11. Interlude: Holiday
Hayley and the ukelele return again for another interlude and this time the results are a little less inspired. The melody is nowhere near as strong as “Moving On” and it ends up being a forgettable number. The music is very much in line with the prior interlude, so this seems pretty pointless to even have on the album — skip it.
While “Proof” is another safe number, there’s something about the overall vocal deliver that lifts it above mediocrity. It’s probably the fun bridge that sees Hayley asking “Do you love me"” that ultimately won me over. So, yeah, it’s a cute little long distance justification song and those in one will get some extra mileage out of “Proof” but for those not, prepare for bland and safe musical choices abound. At least the energy here is earnest and lively for the most part, especially during the somewhat lackluster chorus.
13. Hate To See Your Heart Break
Coming off as a tad bit more country than soft rock ballad, “Hate To See Your Heart Break” will go down as one of Paramore’s best ballads. The chorus, sung so flawlessly and even adorably by Ms. Williams, is impossible not to want to sing along to, especially the little falsetto-esque “break” in her voice as she sings “…heart break”. It’s a beautiful song that feels genuine, even with some its opening lines being about a dull knife sawing through skin (totally awesome, by the way). Hayley’s convincingly sincere delivery steals the show here, as a lightly strummed guitar, groovy chorus bass, and violin accompany her. The classical-sounding outro is the perfect way to end on Paramore’s best slow jams, nay, songs in general to date.
14. (One Of Those) Crazy Girls
How do you follow an excellent ballad" Usually, my answer would be you do it with an in-your-face neck-breaker, as following a great ballad with another slow song is potentially ill-advised. Fortunately, Paramore deliver on the goods, as “Crazy Girls” is a cool 60′s-inspired midtempo tune that has the kind of lyrics you expect P!nk to be shoving down some dude’s throat. Hayley tackles the subject of oblivious girlfriends that become obsessive after a break-up with relatable lyrics that increase the fun factor to retro-swingin’ vibe. The song continues to record a girl’s denial until she admits she is indeed one of those crazy-ass obsessed exes. The guitar solo (if I recall correctly, it’s the only one so far) adds variety and goes along perfectly with the song, as do the occasionally rousing violins.
15. Interlude: Im Not Angry Anymore As expected, the familiar sounds of Hayley and a ukelele return for a brief appearance. This sub-one-minute tune is indeed one of the interludes and, again, is forgetful. It’s here to serve as a quick breather but the melody could have been a little better.
16. Be Alone
Almost everything on “Be Alone” is so blah and meh and just eh. The chorus’ initial appearance serves to be catchy enough but after the second time, it’s already too repetitive. The guitar’s tone here reminds me of Paramore’s outstanding “Hallelujah” but it’s nowhere near as memorable as the guitar line from that song. In fact, there’s nothing memorable about this song, like, at all. It’s not that it’s terrible, it’s just so content with really following formula. The bridge doesn’t break up the repetition and by the time the last chorus comes around, I’ve heard the chorus way too many times and the song’s not even four minutes. You’re fine without hearing this track, trust me.
What the ***" Did just listen to some muted intro then almost five whole minutes of almost self-indulgent instrumentation" It starts off as a decent indie rock bash but then it just goes on for way too long. There’s even a oh-so ***ing pointless silence that then resumes the masturbatory nature of the so-called “jam session”. This whole song seems pointless and when you couple that with “Be Alone”, Paramore’s overall excellent self-titled effort closes with a dud. I’m all for atmosphere and prog rock, but you have got to continuously add subtle layers or have some sort of payoff — not play the same thing ad nauseum. You will never want to hear this ever, ever again (that’s if you finish the song the first time through) and I can’t picture anyone being seriously moved by this song.
It’s been four long years since Paramore’s last outing, “Brand New Eyes”, and it goes without saying that they’ve went through their fair share of shake-ups and drama along the way. They lost the founding Farro brothers, one of the losses especially stinging to me since I was a huge fan of Zac Farro’s absolutely outstanding drumming. Paramore even released a song, “Monster”, for the third Transformers movie as well as a small, four-song EP entitled the Singles Club EP. All five of these gap-filling songs didn’t even hint to Paramore’s self-titled album’s sound, and that’s saying something.
Paramore’s latest album is an absolute fireball in every sense of the word. It starts out with a relentless amount of energy and creativity before crashing down onto Earth, ultimately dying off in lame fashion. None of the songs will drop your jaw through sheer technical prowess, it’s all about how all the elements add up to create an incredibly fun and boisterous effort.It has incredible replay value and the lows are never too low that it cancels out the fun you would have had five minutes ago before a rare dud comes on. Songs like “Grow Up”, “Ain’t It Fun”, and “Fast In My Car” are all exemplary examples of how much joyous pizazz Paramore can punch. Paramore’s self-titled album is a genuinely and thoroughly delectable album, becoming one of 2013′s best albums so far.
Lasting Appeal: 4.2