After three years, that question is finally answered. With the release of their self-titled fourth studio effort, Paramore finally put that question to bed, and offer fans the long awaited opportunity to hear the answer for themselves.
As soon as the album kicks off with it’s first track “Fast In My Car” it’s obvious that this album is definitely not vintage Paramore, which, by it’s very nature is ironic, in that, as soon as the opening drum pattern rings out, followed shortly by the distorted riff, there is in fact a vintage feel to the track that is nothing like their previous body of work. The light and bright guitar tonality that usually resonates in their extensive catalog is replaced by a chunky distortion that seems befitting of a past era.
This in turn transitions into “Now,” the lead single off the album which speaks to the restlessness of today’s world, but is also universal in it’s message of change and the hope for a better tomorrow. By this point, even though it’s still early in the album, there is certainly an essence of experimentation that is unique to this record. Whether it be the guitar tones, the use of electronica elements, or a shift in overall theme, it’s clear that as a band they made a deliberate effort to break away from the typical formula and instead plot an entirely different course.
One of the early stylistic questions has to do with the Interludes, each short in length and each seeming to be a part of a whole. In these segments, Hayley seems to channel the likes of Ingrid Michaelson. As a matter of personal taste, I could do without these interludes. I feel like, even though they are fluid in their central theme, breaking them up throughout the album in this fashion actually serves to interrupt that fluidity rather than harness it. If each interlude were instead condensed into a single track, I could see it working, however, as it stands, each track on it’s own does not aid in transitioning.
Throughout the meat and bones of the album, you come across the jazzy, gospel feel of “Ain’t It Fun,” the rock edge of “Part II” (which I refer to as Let The Flames Begin 2.0) the country feel of “Last Hope,” and the quirky, feel-good “Still Into You,” which brings to mind bands like The Divinyls and others of that era. This album seems to toe the line between innovation and overkill, bombarding the listener with such a plethora of musical elements and genre that at times, the work as a whole seems to lose any sense of clear identity by way of over saturation. There appears to be a struggle for power on this album between vintage and modern. As a listener I’m left wondering whether this splitting mechanism of musical identity is helpful or harmful, and, as it stands, I’m still on the fence.
As the doubt slowly begins to creep in through each ear canal, you come across what I consider to be the gem of the album: “Hate To See Your Heart Break.” This is the most tender, genuine, stripped down moment of the entire album. There is a level of vulnerability here that, through Hayley’s soft delivery, breathes the authenticity that this album is sorely in need of by this point. This track really pulls at the soul, with an angelic quality that is driven home by the vintage atmosphere that this album creates, and nowhere is this more apparent than in this ballad. It has a timeless quality to it, almost as if stepping into a bygone era, as though peeking through the window of times gone by. The following track “(One of Those) Crazy Girls” carries the torch and further cements that notion.
“Future” is completely stripped down, and has the live, organic, raw feel that I absolutely love. From a lyrical standpoint, it reiterates themes touched on in “Now” which leads me to wonder if what I thought to be the push and pull of opposites throughout this album was not simply a lack of fluidity by default, but by design. That perhaps this album, if anything, is a philosophical commentary on past and future, vintage and modern, and how the two are not simply polar opposite entities, but rather, intertwining parts that comprise a sum, flowing from the same vein, going from stripped down in the beginning to heavy and distorted by the end.
Whether I am in the proper ballpark with this assessment or completely out of left field, and whether you as a listener are completely spellbound or utterly distraught over this “new direction,” there are no further questions surrounding the future of Paramore. There is a future, and they have it now.