Review Summary: A chronology for survival.Paramore
is a weird album. But on a surface level, it doesn’t really seem that way, does it" The record seems like a natural extension of the band’s pop-punk home turf, with a little more emphasis on the pop than the punk. Add in a few new experiments (the post-rock of “Future” is especially notable) and you have something that appears to be a fresh continuation of a strong career. But we have to turn back the clock here and remember that things weren’t
so strong back then. At least on a behind-the-scenes front, that is. This 17-track behemoth was the direct result of spite, ego trips, and division; and boy, does it show. Two of the most integral members – the Farro brothers – had recently departed the band because of personal clashes with Hayley Williams, the group was reduced to a trio, and Williams channeled a great deal of her anger and melancholy into her songwriting. You may not hear it from the first few tracks, which spew out disingenuous positive subject matter in a peppy fashion. But “Grow Up” just hits you right in the gut with one of the album’s big points: Hayley Williams felt justified in her sparring matches with the Farros. She stuck to her guns, and that kind of conviction is what really sells her stirring performances on Paramore
. Now, I wouldn’t blame you at all if you thought this whole thing was childish and made Williams out to be a “diva bitch” (in her own words). It’s not uncommon for standout members of a band to get a bit too big for their britches, and clashing egos are often what cause the breakup of a group in the first place.
But what makes Paramore
so weird is that it uses so many genres, so many lyrical approaches, and so many instrumental quirks to communicate one thing to you, the listener: Hayley Williams is “over it” and is ready to move on. But she clearly wasn’t over it, and “not over it” is written all over every damn lyric that addresses it. And you know what" That does actually make for a compelling record. Williams’ complicated feelings toward the Farros, coupled with the more expansive instrumental work, makes for an excellent follow-up to the dynamic pop-punk we heard on Brand New Eyes
. The punk might be pretty lacking here – with the exception of a few songs, such as the fun burst of energy heard with “Anklebiters” or the throwback All We Know
-esque “Be Alone” – but it’s replaced with new genres and influences that expand the band’s sound in unique ways; much of this would set the stage for the synthpop we’d eventually get with After Laughter
. So in essence, this could be seen as a transitional record. Some of the pop-punk of the old days makes its way here, but it shares record time with some interesting experiments; this can range from ukulele interludes to marimba intros to gospel bridges to a duet with Civil Wars vocalist Joy Williams. But somehow, it all just seems to work
. Perhaps it goes back to what I said about the band’s conviction, but you have to give them kudos for taking so many risks and venturing into such uncharted waters after establishing their original Hot Topic/Warped Tour fanbase. And I’m not just talking about Hayley Williams, for the record; I mean, have you heard Taylor York’s drum solo in “Part II”" If you haven’t, be prepared to have your jaw on the floor for a solid minute as York and Williams partake in what might be the most passionate and intense moment of the band’s discography. Longtime bassist Jeremy Davis can’t be ignored either, as his bass lines actually provide a strong melodic framework for more intricate numbers like “Now” or “Ain’t It Fun.” I’m not saying Paramore
is for everyone, and I realize a lot of people have already made their case on whether its controversial backstory and troubled history led to a good end product. But what I’m saying is that it was probably the best thing the band could have released to survive their sink-or-swim ultimatum. This is a strong, diverse pop/rock album made by a band with a complicated history, and while Hayley Williams may act self-assured, the most compelling thing about her is that – like many of us – she is still just a misguided ghost.