Simon Theory’s 1-Line Review: While playing less like a Paramore album and more of a Hayley Williams solo album, the tracks are bursting with energy, depth, and versatility making it their most critically-acclaimed album to date.
With the departure of Paramore founding brothers Josh and Zac Farro on guitar and drums respectively, cynics began hypothesizing the bands future as “Questionable at best”. Losing the band’s musical director as well as one of the most energetic and impressive drummers of the Millennial Generation, many foresaw the inevitable loss of the band’s limited punk-rock influence. So Paramore did the most punk-rock thing they could and made the album critics feared they’d make only with one stipulation: that this kind of pop-crossover album would still be…you know…”Good”.
A very tall order, to say the least. But what they ended up with was a long, robust, 17-track epic collection of wonderfully good ideas. Great albums can usually only be one of two things:
1. A start-to-finish great album.
2. An album jam packed with great songs.
Paramore’s “self-entitled” fourth album is most definitely the latter. This is not the kind of album you can press play and enjoy the journey the album takes you on. Instead, you’re forced to enjoy one musical treat after another without so much thought put into organization or track listing. In fact, I strongly recommend you take the album and rearrange the tracks to your personal liking cuz they’ve thrown everything including the kitchen sink into this loaded album.
From early Paramore pop/rock anthems about youthful rebellion like the first single “Now” or the early Avril Lavigne-inspired “Anklebiters”, to wiser, coming-of-age pop/rock tracks like “Proof” or “Last Hope, this album goes places. The songs never sit still. Tracks like “Crazy Girls” starts off sounding like early Temptations until the electric guitar rocks to a back-beat which then resembles Weezer. “Aint It Fun”, the most drastic attempt to broaden their comfort zone sounds like a blend of Cyndi Lauper and Bobby Brown, complete with a gospel choir’s soulful Motown chanting of “Don’t go cryin’ to your mama/Cuz you’re on your own in the real world”. When Paramore first got public attention with pop/punk tracks like “Misery Business” or “Decode”, early fans may hear tracks like “Aint It Fun” or “Still Into You” move in a completely different direction from where most thought Paramore would naturally evolve to.
Then 80’s influenced rock tracks like “Part II” or “Be Alone” remind the listener that Paramore is, indeed, a “band” with solid musicians and the right amount of edge to write honest, mature lyrics from veteran singer/songwriters. Furthering the album’s theme of growing up is the track appropriately named “Grow Up” which initially sounds the most like previous Paramore offerings until the bridge suddenly transitions into something closer to Tears For Fears. Or the way “Last Hope” sounds like a poppy Jewel track until the second refrain when the rock comes in making the track sound more like The Cranberries. Then there’s the three-part jazzy ukulele interludes spread out throughout the album.
But most likely the largest departure from previous Paramore albums is the country ballad “Hate To See Your Heartbreak” with its elegant melodies and sweeping strings similar to Top 40 standards. If released 30-40 years ago by a beloved female singer/songwriter like Carol King or Joni Mitchell, this track would be an absolute pop classic licensed to a number of Hollywood romance films. Instead, it will most likely be marginalized as a “filler-ballad”.
However, its an easy album to ignore. The tracks are so broad and diverse, you sometimes have a problem switching gears so recklessly from track to track. This definitely wasn’t the band attempting to show their ability to make a great album as much as it was displaying the many colors and influences the band has in their arsenal. Every great band has that one “White Album” attempt at just jamming out a huge workload of material not concerned with what will “fit”. Instead, Paramore went in not concerned with what fit and made 17 tracks filled with good ideas. But don’t feel bad if, while listening to the album, you find yourself forced to skip tracks. The biggest criticism I have is there’s no clear mood or tone guiding you through the album. Its more like the schizophrenic rantings of a girl’s first steps into womanhood while listening to an “Ultimate 80’s” compilation “As-Seen-On-TV”.