At seventeen tracks long, some may say their fourth studio album is overly long. But it’s also been a really long time since the band has released a full-length, so who can blame them for taking the word ‘full’ quite literally? Sometimes it’s easy to forget why this offering has been so anxiously anticipated - in the length of time they’ve been gone, we’ve seen a spate of changes in the music world, and there are bands whose break ups didn’t even last as long as their absence from the scene. But in a true testimony to the band, Paramore never once gave up. So this is a big deal.
The fact that the record is self-titled is somewhat apt in the part it plays in the defining era of the band; namely Jeremy Davis, Taylor York and of course Hayley Williams. With the infiltration of first single 'Now' into the ears of the online world earlier in the year, they arguably picked the perfect first song to push them back to the forefront of everyone’s attention. The electro-pop feel of 'Now' gave many a magnetic pull straight to the dance floors, but of course it had its critics. The band has always had a well-documented uphill battle, but their numerous proclamations and promises of a new (and improved?) Paramore, despite whispers of doubt, seem to have been followed through.
While the notion of having four different sides is a little on the old-school side and the combination may at times be a little random, it’s forgiven, because each has its own tracks worthy of note. 'Part II' is certainly one of the stand-out moments, displaying clever lyrics depicting both who Paramore were and who they hope to be in an equally anthemic nod to past endeavors - most evidently 'Let The Flames Begin' from Riot!
'Last Hope' is about living life and not being afraid to do so. It is one of many songs on the record which, whilst melancholic, doesn’t allow itself to drown in apathy, serving as yet another sign that this is a true reflection on the band’s recent journey. Second single 'Still Into You' allows Williams to pack a playful punch with her vocals. With a quirky staccato and now familiar slightly affected lilt to her voice, her role is juxtoposed with a crescendo of climatic drums towards the end. Lyrically, it's rather innocent, but musically, it's edgy as hell.
Interspersed by interludes, there are certain tracks on the latter half of the record at least that point directly to the band's Southern, Tennessee roots. Stepping back to a simpler time with the plucky guitar of 'I'm Not Angry Anymore,' their country influences can definitely be heard with a little Indie edge added into the mix. Infused with conflicted emotions, the song epitomizes the general feel of the entire record. Finally, 'Future' is a closing number with a nod to the three-piece's pop-punk days - a distinctly less prominent theme on this record than its predecessors. However, that's not an issue for those prepared to embrace change, and simply frames the feeling that they are still deliciously infectious in all of their glory.
At one time, the world fixated on the fact Hayley was (shock, horror) a female vocalist. Then it was the notion that Paramore “is a band” and had to fight being defined by its flame-haired frontwoman. 2013 brings constant reminders that this three-piece were cloaked in a cloud of drama the past few years, but ‘were’ seems to be the key word. From this record, it’s clear that the once-quintet are over all that and ready for their next chapter. Maybe it’s time for everyone to stop obsessing and see the Paramore for what they are; a group of highly motivated and talented musicians and writers. Their past is going nowhere, and it shouldn't have to, but it’s clear to see that their future is just beginning. All you have to do is listen out for the buzz-words about hopes and dreams and all that jazz throughout this self-titled epic to feel inspired. Some might say that this once pessimistic band has taken a U-turn towards optimism - while that may sound a little lame in light of their angsty back catalog, those "some" are definitely right, but Paramore's transition out of the dark only makes them more striking.
Claire Louise Sheridan
Paramore is out on April 9th via Fueled By Ramen.