Four years ago, Paramore released Brand New Eyes. Any fan of the band knew that the five piece from Franklin, Tennessee had suffered a near break up in the years leading up the album. We thought maybe that everything had been put right and that the band was past their creative combat.
Two years ago, we found out that was not so, and that founding members Josh and Zac Farro had left the band. It was an especially bitter break-up on the Farro's end, calling the band a manufactured label product, and also citing religious problems within the band.
However, remaining members Taylor York (guitar), Jeremy Davis (bass), and Hayley Williams decided to keep on trucking, but decided to keep it as low key as you can when you're a legend in the rock community. They released a song for one of the Transformers films, toured South America a couple times, and recorded in the downtime. And then, almost out of the blue, the single "Now" was released with the album on the way.
I wasn't particularly impressed by "Now", but it's usually the case with Paramore that I don't like their singles as much as I like their album material.
That proves to be true with this album. Not only does "Now" work better in context with the album, but the songs form a future we could never have imagined of this band.
The sound is definitely different than what we're used to with quite a few throwbacks to Riot!. There's a lot of poppy sounding licks, but the lyrics are brutally honest, occasionally somber, and also what we're not quite used to.
The lyrical tone is in turns bitter, fun, and matured from past releases. Hayley sounds less like a teenager now, probably because she's not anymore, and that really shows in the tone of the album. And the band certainly aren't skirting around their near break-up. There are quite a few songs on the record that are almost personal jabs at the brothers Farro. Songs like "Fast In My Car", "Anklebiters", and the aptly titled "Grow Up" along with "Now" are easily the most angry on the album, recalling in part the teenage angst of albums past.
The band's musical prowess has definitely increased in the midst of the breakup. Jeremy exhibits some pretty tasty bass licks throughout and the guitar riffs have a distinctly different taste than Josh's, but still are interestingly musically and to the casual listener. It's different. And the production is smooth, and really puts the new pace and tone into the spotlight.
Then there are some more slowpaced, and even sweetly romantic songs on the album, like "Hate To See Your Heartbreak" which experiments with a gorgeous string section and takes a few cues from the band's biggest mega hit "The Only Exception", and the more upbeat "Still Into You", which is probably the happiest song the band has ever put out.
There are tinges of electronica on this record, and that's definitely going to turn some longtime fans off to the album, but it almost feels like the band is challenging you to grow up with them too. The teenagers who found Paramore in their Riot! and even Brand New Eyes cycles are now older. They're growing up too. It's strange how the audience is mirroring the band.
I won't deny that I miss the old Paramore, but this new album is definitely one of my favorite recent releases. For all you hesitant fans out there, give it a shot, you might find some startlingly good, catchy, and utterly awesome new songs. Two thumbs up.