It makes sense that this is Paramore’s self-titled album, even though it’s their fourth full-length. Everything you know or have heard about Paramore, put all of those pre-conceived notions in your time capsule for 2009, because that’s not them anymore. This is the two remaining original members’ (Taylor York joined the band after the Farro departure) time to show everyone what they’ve had all along.
“Been through the ringer a couple times/I came out callous and cruel/And my two friends know this very well/Because they went through it too,” from “Fast in my Car,” sums up what Paramore has been going through for the last couple years and it’s the beginning lyrics to their self-titled album. This song is probably one of the weaker songs in terms of lyrics, but the first couple of lines are a statement if I ever heard one. Lead singer Hayley Williams has, without question, always been the media spotlight of this band, but there always seemed to be an underlying struggle with creativity between her, bassist Jeremy Davis, guitarist Josh and drummer Zac Farro. It’s their first effort without Josh and Zac Farro, who were very predominant in choosing the band’s style and Josh Farro wrote all of their lyrics with Hayley Williams (but let’s be real, most of it was him, and you can especially validate that after listening to this album).
Even though this album is predominately a very different Paramore, the band and producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen do a good job of balancing that and the old Paramore that everyone knew and loved before this. There are a couple of songs on the album that mirror the old Paramore more so than others. Something that was very important to this band before, were the lyrics. They seem to be hit or miss on this album, and I think it’s because the other band members are completely in charge of delivering them. The instrumentation and production, on the other hand, is stronger than ever. It seems like the band really knows how they want to sound now, they just have to work on some of their lyrics and they’ll really “have [their] band and a light that won’t go out” as Hayley claims in “Grow Up.”
I’m not sure if the band did this on purpose, but if you listen to the album in order, you’ll notice a change of themes in their lyrics and I think it also might mirror the Farro dynamic that was present in the band and the feelings Williams and Davis had after the departure. In the beginning, the songs are all about strength and resilience.“There's a time and a place to die but this ain't it,” Williams wails in “Now,” their first single off this album. The lyrics are cryptic enough that they also could mean other things, too, so if you didn’t know anything about the drama that went on, you might not have picked up on it.
Then, in the middle of the album, there’s “Ain’t it Fun,” “Part II,” and “Last Hope,” which are about acceptance, independence, and self-awareness. The middle is also probably the weakest part of the album, especially with “Ain’t it Fun”. Usually this band sounds very genuine and raw to me, this song sounds like they’re trying too hard.
“Last Hope” was a song that grew on me as I kept listening to the album. It’s one of the four songs I feel sound most like the old Paramore (the others being “Still Into You,” “Anklebiters,” and “Proof”). And like Paramore always does best, they lay a lyric down that will probably be tattooed on many 18-year-old scene girls across the country, in the near future: “It's just a spark/ But it's enough to keep me going.” Another one that hits you when you hear it - “It's not that I don't feel the pain/ It's just I'm not afraid of hurting anymore.”
Both “Still Into You” and “Proof” could be on Riot! and would fit in perfectly. This album did a great job introducing this new version of Paramore, while also giving the fans something familiar. I think that is also due to the excellent work of Meldal-Johnsen, who also produced Tegan and Sara’s Heartthrob earlier this year and did the same thing on that album, too. He’s great at giving the band a different direction, but sticking to their roots at the same time.
The end finishes with hopefulness and stability, with the exception of “(One of those) Crazy Girls,” I suppose, which is a fun, ‘50s-style rant about becoming an overly attached girlfriend. The song that best describes this theory is the last song on the album, “Future.” Williams says, “So think of the future, think of a new life/ And don’t get lost in the memories/ Keep your eyes on the new prize.”
Williams sings in “Now”: “Feels like I'm waking from the dead/ And everyone's been waitin' on me.” This is scarily accurate, but it seems like fans have been waiting for something they didn’t even expect - hopefully they’ll be just as welcoming to the new direction they’re going in as I am.
7.5 / 10
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