Refreshingly enjoyable throughout, Paramore is an upbeat, effervescent affair, far from the angst of emo.
Paramore's sweet sounds
It was around a decade ago that Hayley Williams made the principled stand that would shape her future role in the music business. Signed to Atlantic Records, the Mississippi-born teenager was being pushed towards a solo pop career, but insisted on hanging on to her band and the edgier ethos that went with it.
A similar stance had been adopted 30 years earlier by one of the major inspirations behind this latest album, Blondie’s Debbie Harry, and the results were not dissimilar. Where Harry brought a gritty glamour to the original punk scene, Williams did likewise for the intense pop-punk of the “emo” era. But, like Blondie, after seven years, Paramore imploded.
In late 2010, the founder members Josh and Zac Farro suddenly quit, complaining (somewhat belatedly) that the band was “manufactured” and little more than a solo project. The remaining trio – Williams, Jeremy Davis and Taylor York – resolved to carry on, but the episode raised serious questions. Could Paramore survive without the Farro brothers? And were they a real band in the first place?
The answers here are: “Yes” and “does it matter?” Tellingly self-titled, this fourth album signals a new start and a surprisingly carefree approach to style and mood. It could well be the record that brings them an enormous new audience, in fact, if also alienating gloomier factions of the original fan base.
Williams has admitted listening repeatedly to Blondie’s Greatest Hits before these sessions began and there are parallels to that band’s successful dalliances with unlikely genres. Here, Paramore cast aside all previous surliness to happily incorporate jaunty ska (Grow Up), country balladry (the lovely Hate to See Your Heart Break) and even jazzy pop on Ain’t it Fun, where Williams’s increasingly impressive vocals go up against a gospel choir. Daydreaming, meanwhile, owes an awful lot to Blondie’s 1979 hit Dreaming.
Recurring lyrical themes in the more assertive guitar anthems would appear to be aimed at the Farro brothers: there’s much talk of looking ahead and leaving people behind. And yet, curiously, the most explicit barbs are to be found in several brief ukulele interludes, notably Moving On (“let ’em spill their guts, ’cause one day they’re gonna slip on ’em”). Although the final interlude, I’m Not Angry Anymore, says much for the album’s tone.
Refreshingly enjoyable throughout, Paramore is an upbeat, effervescent affair, far from the angst of emo. For a manufactured semi-solo act, they appear to be getting on just fine.
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