Paramore - Paramore (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
NEARLY four years after the release of their previous album Paramore return minus two members but in no less gutsy form.
Their eponymous comeback is a defiantly grand affair. Comprised of 17 tracks, the emphasis remains on powerful punk-rock. But they also mix things up a little more, throwing in the odd pop ballad or folk-inflicted interlude.
As such, you could call them rejuvenated. And enjoying their songwriting. Yes, the themes of being in love and falling out of it remain intact. But they seem to be delivered with even more relish, as though the lessons of gargantuan success and the toll it inevitably takes have been learned and even embraced.
That’s not necessarily to pour lavish praise on the album. It’s consistently good but struggles to hit great because of one too many signature moments. But when they pull out a firecracker or toss in a surprise, the album really does endear itself.
Take, Hate To See Your Heartbreak as an example of a surprise – a gentle ballad that finds Hayley Williams’ at her most vulnerable and affecting. The sweet surrounding melodies are a genuine delight and far removed from some of the band’s more signature harder elements.
The trick is almost repeated on [One Of Those] Crazy Girls, which opens in similarly heartbroken, ballad-y fashion until you realise it’s actually song about an obsessive stalker. And once you do, the pace picks up amid some feisty electronic under-currents and sharper guitar riffs. It’s another good moment that successfully toys with early expectation.
The interludes, too, strip away the hard sounds in favour of simple acoustic strums or ukulele. Again, they disarm and charm.
Moving On, the first of the three, says farewell to an old flame in 90 likeable seconds, the second Holiday drops a ukulele Jack Johnson fans would admire over a song about growing up, while the final one, I’m Not Angry Anymore, offers another 90-second snapshot of a singer at peace with herself and the world over another likeable slice of ukulele.
So, does that mean the album only works best when deviating from expectation? Not necessarily. Album opener Fast In My Car is a great starting point that features Williams at her most openly rebellious amid powerhouse guitar riffs and pounding drums.
It gets things rolling emphatically and the momentum is maintained with gutsy former single Now, which again finds Williams in defiant mode, proclaiming: “If there’s a future, we want it now.”
Grow Up, meanwhile, has a more pop edge that sees Williams adopting a vocal style that’s more No Doubt or Pink than Paramore… complete with one of the most melodic and sing-along choruses on the LP.
It’s just a shame that one or two of the more standard numbers impede the album’s smooth flow. Tracks like Daydreaming, Still Into You and Part II barely register and feel more like they’re coasting than stretching themselves.
That said, Anklebiters offers a viciously aggressive punk rock workout to savour, Be Alone ushers the album to a raucous close and Future draws things to a close in strong fashion, appearing like a mellow finale for the first three and a half minutes or so as Williams encourages fans to keep looking forward. But then things suddenly hit a second gear… the soft acoustics replaced by sharper, more angry riffs and the drums becoming more pounding. The lyrics also fade away, leaving the instrumentals to do the talking for another couple of minutes [before fading out and then starting up again for another three!]. It’s an epic that you don’t immediately see coming and another of the album’s surprises.
Put together, Paramore is a strong return for the band that combines both the signature sound of old with something more adventurous in places. They may be smaller in number but they appear to growing in stature and broadening their appeal while doing it.
Download picks: Fast In My Car, [One Of Those] Crazy Girls, Hate To See Your Heartbreak, I’m Not Angry Anymore, Moving On, Now, Future, Grow Up