I have a small confession to make before I dig into this review: there is a part of my psyche that is a 12-year-old girl. It may not be a big part, but it’s there. Before you go screaming for my man-card, I think that a lot of you men — if you’re really honest with yourselves — can also admit this. It’s this part of me that connects with the band Paramore.
It’s a pretty easy sell, on the face of it. When I started listening to the band (some time after their second album, Riot!, was released), their brand of pop-infused punk, driven by a killer lead singer, was really fun to rock along with. Sweetening the pot was the general lack of objectionable content, meaning that I could listen to them with my older daughter (now an actual 12-year-old girl) and not have to worry about her picking up any words that might get her (read: me) into trouble.
Jump forward a few years, and the entire family are fans of the band. Paramore bridges the gap between my rock sensibilities and my wife’s Top 40 preferences, providing a nice middle ground for car ride musical selections. The way I look at it, anything that means less forced-Maroon-5-listening-to is A-OK in my book. A new release from these guys is pretty much a guaranteed Day One purchase.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the band — or don’t follow the particulars of its lineup — a bit of a recent history recap is in order before we dive into this new record. At the tail-end of 2010, founding members Josh and Zac Farro (lead guitarist and drummer, respectively), left the band. As with many departures, the reasons are vastly different depending on who is telling the story. Truthfully, for the purpose of this review, it doesn’t even matter. What is important is that it seems that the Brothers Farro took most of the punk with them when they left.
The new, eponymously-titled album, Paramore, is almost pure pop confection. On my first listen, I felt like this album had more in common with a Selena Gomez album (I already said that I have daughters – don’t judge me!) than anything that I would expect from Paramore. As I let the album replay, though, the further layers become apparent. Yes, it is unapologetic ear candy. It is also the most varied and eclectic that this band has ever been. Each pop nugget seems crafted from a different genre or, at the very least, genre-influence. There are a couple of tracks that almost sound like the old Paramore, but there is also a song that includes a full-gospel choir, commanding you to not go crying to your mama. There is a track with a ’50s doo-wop vibe. There are a couple of ukulele interludes. There’s even an electronic-infused dance track. This all-over-the-place-ness is a bit shocking when you’re expecting some simple pop-punk to sing along with.
The included tracks are definitely sing-along material, though, and singer Hayley Williams sounds fantastic here. She’s a little girl with a huge voice, and that has not diminished in the slightest. She is the foundation for the band’s sound, and is undoubtedly what keeps this new direction still somehow sounding like Paramore. The guitars (former rhythm guitarist, Taylor York) and drums (Nine Inch Nails drummer, Ilan Rubin) seem toned-down from the band’s previous direction. This is probably more by design than lack of technical prowess. On the flip-side of the coin, the bass (long-time bassist, Jeremy Davis) has been brought forward in the mix, and sounds great. I hope that future efforts continue to feature the bass this prominently, as it really works with what they’re doing now.
Overall, this is certainly not an album by 2009′s Paramore. They are a new band with a new vision and sound. Longtime fans may be a bit turned off, but I suspect that they will pick up many a new listener with this more pop-rock direction. If you were a fan of the band before, you may want to at least check out some samples before purchasing. However, if you don’t mind a little extra pop in your rock, then your inner 12-year-old girl will probably really enjoy Paramore as a valid entry in the band’s catalog.
Side note: I abhor this album cover. Of all the lazy, thoughtless crap to stick on the front of your album, an ugly, poorly-framed, dull band photo has to be about the worst. It honestly looks like they forgot to commission a proper cover and just promoted a second-rate band photo from the liner notes to the cover. But that doesn’t diminish any of the music within.