Paramore
This Is Why


4.0
excellent

Review

by Brendan Schroer CONTRIBUTOR (262 Reviews)
June 24th, 2023 | 20 replies


Release Date: 02/10/2023 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Mask off.

2017’s After Laughter could best be described as the sound of desperation. No, not in the sense of Paramore themselves getting desperate, though they were facing many roadblocks during this era. I’m referring to the actual tone of the record: songs that gleefully jaunt along in spite of the sadness lurking beneath, as the lyrics paint a picture of a narrator who’s dying for just a little dose of positivity. And, interestingly enough, the happy music / sad lyrics contrast actually made the music itself even sadder. Drive your mental spear into any one of After Laughter’s many illusory mirrors, and you’ll find a more unvarnished portrait of the true “hard times” lurking beneath the facade. It made for an incredibly captivating listen, as the youthful energy of earlier Paramore outings like All We Know Is Falling and Riot! had been traded in for a more reserved, cautious experience.

But now we have 2023’s This Is Why. And as soon as Hayley Williams utters the first few lyrics, one can detect a change of tone from the previous album:

”If you have an opinion, maybe you should shove it.”

It’s blunt, direct, and immediately makes the message clear: the mask of After Laughter has fallen off, and Paramore are ready to face the anxiety and fear of a post-COVID world head-on. To facilitate this change, the new wave influences of After Laughter have been lessened in favor of a tightly-wound, distinctly cold post-punk sound; Williams treads the line between sarcastic, melancholic, and angry, while Taylor York and Zac Farro display more instrumental chemistry than ever before. Percussive, funky guitar stabs are met with intricate, tense drum patterns during the more energetic cuts (title track, “The News”, “C’est Comme Ca”), while softer passages allow for York to conjure up dreamy, almost psychedelic chord sequences (found on “Big Man, Little Dignity”, “Crave” and “Thick Skull”). But one through-line remains in the entirety of This Is Why: even in the most “satisfied” or “happy” tracks, there’s always an undercurrent of tension and apprehension.

Or, to put this another way, This Is Why effectively serves as the yang to the yin of After Laughter. The latter was a deceptively bouncy affair that tried to mask its inner turmoil; meanwhile, the former finds the band in said turmoil and grasping for any source of light they can. Take the aforementioned “The News”, for instance: Williams laments the constant negative news cycle, and every attempted coping mechanism (shutting one’s eyes, treating the problem as normal) utterly fails. Meanwhile, the guitars and drums are tightly, intricately coiling around the listener in math rock fashion, perfectly simulating the anxiety and paranoia of the lyrics. What even happens to the narrator? Who knows. A true solution is never presented, leaving the piece in a state of limbo. “Figure 8” is another prime example of unresolved tension, as Williams brings us into the aftermath of a toxic relationship; even in the fallout, she’s still in a constant inner conflict – a mental figure-8, if you will. Again, this is wonderfully complimented by the uneasy, jittery nature of the instrumentation.

While Paramore have always had hints of melancholy and alienation – they did earn the coveted “emo” tag, after all – This Is Why is the most defeated they’ve ever sounded. But much like my “desperation” description regarding After Laughter, in no way does that defeatedness translate to the band’s actual efforts. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that This Is Why has even more inner-band chemistry and connectedness than After Laughter did. The three-piece is so incredibly tight and focused here, powering through these tracks near-effortlessly – which is especially impressive on the more “math-y” cuts like “The News” and “Figure 8”. Meanwhile, songs like “Big Man, Little Dignity” and “Running Out of Time” show York and Farro’s adeptness at switching styles at a moment’s notice, alternating between dreamlike echo-swathed chords and tight new-wave-meets-funk grooves.

It’s worth nothing that not everything works here. “C’est Comme Ca”, for instance, has some interesting ideas – sarcastic spoken word verses, catchy-as-hell bridge – that are completely derailed by the incessantly annoying chorus (if I hear "la la la la" one more goddamn time...). Meanwhile, “You First” is a generic alt-rock/pop-punk tune that could have made it on any Paramore record; nothing too interesting or new there. But all is forgiven when you take a gander at This Is Why’s penultimate track, “Crave” – an absolute gem of a song that marries beautiful dream-pop guitar melodies with some of Williams’ best vocal hooks to date. It also happens to be the most positive and hopeful moment on the record, as the singer makes peace with her tension and lamentations about the past and future.

Really, those two words sum up most of This Is Why: “tension” and “lamentations”. Despite the fact that Paramore were likely in a better place (mentally, personally, etc.) here than they were with After Laughter, there’s a distinct fusion of melancholy and anxiousness that courses through this entire tracklist. And though much of the subject matter is very personal to Williams, there’s a fascinating sense of universality to This Is Why. It’s as if she’s branching some of her personal demons and frustrations out to the concerns of the public itself, with subtle (and not-so-subtle) nods to political and societal issues. Much of the record feels as though our narrator is screaming into the void and receiving absolute silence, and that makes for an extremely compelling counterpart to the “false” positivity of After Laughter. And in that constant game of lyrical and stylistic tug-o-war, This Is Why provides an excellent look into its counterpart’s darker, more brutally honest underbelly.



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user ratings (387)
3.4
great
other reviews of this album
Mateo Ottie CONTRIBUTOR (4)
If you have an opinion, then maybe you should shove it....

Sowing STAFF (3.6)
A worthy if mildly disappointing addition to Paramore's canon....

Shamus248 (2.5)
Should this one have left the house?...

Kyle1221 (4.5)
With enjoyable, modern-alternative rock sounds and plenty to love about this record, this is why Par...



Comments:Add a Comment 
Koris
Contributing Reviewer
June 24th 2023


20762 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I said I was gonna do this, so here it is. Wasn't expecting to put out such a big writeup, but I just kept thinking of more stuff to add 😂

GhostShelter
June 24th 2023


805 Comments


Nice one!

veninblazer
June 24th 2023


16630 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

there really is a part of me that misses the harder edge this band had in the 2000s, but there's other directions I would've loved to see them take following their self titled too. There's still a lot of room for exploration to keep their sound fresh, and I like how earnest a lot of this is even if for me these last couple albums don't have the replay value of their old work.

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
June 24th 2023


20762 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@Ghost: thanks!



@Venin: That's absolutely fair, and I think that take represents what a lot of the band's OG fanbase feels about them today. But out of all the Hot Topic bands who "evolved" to a new sound later in their careers, I feel as though Paramore did it the best. The music is poppier and more new wave, yeah, but it's done in a way that doesn't sound like the band selling out or chasing trends (sans the 80s thing, perhaps)



Then you have something like Fall Out Boy's Mania, which is just horrendously shameless about it, lol

veninblazer
June 24th 2023


16630 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I very do much appreciate them stepping out and doing new things, especially as earnestly as they do. Hayley just seems like the type of person that does shit because she enjoys it, not necessarily to make the most money. I honestly want to see them do more stuff in the vein of "Future" off s/t. The drawn out dreamy atmosphere is really sick.

And yeaaaaah the less said about Mania the better. At least the new one's dece.

mkmusic1995
Contributing Reviewer
June 24th 2023


1552 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Very nicely written Koris. I really appreciate this blunter and more direct route that the band have taken especially with their lyrics. I really didn't care for After Laughter but this bangs.

Groundking
June 24th 2023


2251 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nice write up Koris.

I love this record and the hate these guys get is overblown, super consistent band that does something slightly different every album but still very much 'Paramore' and Hayley writes some of the best hooks in the business imo. Speaking of hooks you mention 'You First' being generic alt-rock/pop-punk and whilst I agree I love the grove and think the hook is one of the stronger ones here. Even if I'm not really paying attention to the album when that song comes back around it always sucks me in and gets me singing along.

Second half of the album is 100% stronger than the first imo.

Minortimbo12
June 24th 2023


1587 Comments


VERY nice review
Imo riot is still their best

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
June 24th 2023


20762 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks guys



And yeah, there’s always gonna be a certain contingent of the fanbase that says all the post-Josh stuff sucks, and that Paramore should have just stayed in the pop-punk realm. Personally, I love both eras, and I’m glad they opted to expand their sound as they went along. Tbh, you can already hear hints of their current sound on earlier albums like Brand New Eyes… I could totally imagine All I Wanted or Misguided Ghosts being on one of their newer records

veninblazer
June 24th 2023


16630 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

As much as I love the pop punk era more I really feel like it's like a system of a down situation almost where if they stayed it would've felt somewhat forced and the quality wouldn't be as good. Those return singles System did were mid as hell and if they did a full album like that it'd be easily their weakest. Some eras are just meant to stay where they are and that's fine.

Hell, before The Foundations of Decay came out I didn't want MCR to release new music because I didn't want them to sully their legacy like Fall Out Boy or Panic (granted the latter was always eh) did. But the song they dropped ruled and proved they probably had enough in the tank for a new album so yeah.

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
June 24th 2023


20762 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Completely agreed regarding the SOAD situation. As much as people want them to make another album, I honestly think it would be best for them to hang it up and pursue other projects. Serj sounds so bored and uninspired in the band's recent live shows anyway, and it's extremely clear that he's the one holding the band up

MoM
June 24th 2023


5994 Comments


Yeah, halfhearted art would just be shitty. These guys are done.

veninblazer
June 24th 2023


16630 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

A new System album wouldnt even come close to living up to expectations.

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
June 24th 2023


20762 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

For sure. A potential new SOAD album would basically be the musical equivalent of Half-Life 3 at this point. Even if it did come out, it probably wouldn't be worth such a long wait

veninblazer
June 24th 2023


16630 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I mean at least Fear Inoculum was decent albeit the worst Tool album lol

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
June 24th 2023


20762 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, FI was at least somewhat worth the wait

Groundking
June 25th 2023


2251 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I love FI but new SOAD would 100% be shit imo. They don't care anymore and just go through the motions when they do tour now.

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
June 25th 2023


20762 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

They just seem so done. And even Genocidal Humanoidz, which was supposed to represent the more "wacky" side of SOAD, was such a by-the-numbers version of that sound

Tundra
June 25th 2023


9275 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Figure 8 rules hard

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
June 25th 2023


20762 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

One of the best here for sure



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