Endless line up changes and inner turmoil threatened the band’s future but their fourth album has been met with critical acclaim and was rightfully dubbed their most creative and impressive effort yet. Having been a fan for years, I can honestly say, hand on heart, I am glad that Paramore survived the Apopcalypse.
Formed, like so many other rock bands, during those dreamy High School days, Paramore began as a 5 piece in 2002 whilst most members were worryingly young (…I’m talking 12 and 13). Gigging after their home school sessions, the band had reams of talent beyond their years and front woman Hayley Williams was eventually signed to Atlantic as a solo artist, later refusing to be controlled by a major label in favour of playing rock music as part of a group. Atlantic moved her and her bandmates to Fueled by Ramen, a more appropriate signing, and Paramore continued to hone their rock inspired, poppy sound. Their name derives from the word paramour meaning “secret lover”. Cute, right?
After initially touring along the South-East of America (driven by Williams’ parents), original member Jeremy Davis left the band. Paramore’s 2005 debut album All We Know Is Falling was based around the concept of his departure and their imminent sense of loss – having just been offered their big break, the band were already struggling through issues that not even reputable bands survived. AWKIF offered up a loud, passionate and reflective contribution from Paramore, an emo/pop/punk/rock combination which was relevant and suited to the times. The album failed to chart but was met with an array of positive reviews, mainly complimenting Hayley’s distinct and powerful vocals, the mature lyrics and excellent craft of the songs.
After several members swapped in and out of Paramore, Davis returned upon request and began recording with the band again. Word of mouth allowed them to play at several concerts and festivals across America but after they were voted “Best New Band” by Kerrang (Williams was also voted #2 Sexiest Female), Hunter Lamb opted out of the band in order to get married. Taylor York, friend of the (original members) Farro brothers, joined as a replacement and after receiving endless awards and accolades, Paramore released Riot! in summer 2007. The album showcased maturation and a better understanding of their musical direction which resulted in warm reviews and a place on many “end of year must have” lists. Lifted from the album was “Misery Business”, a spunky and energetic three and a half minutes of pop rock which has become quite the soundtrack to many angst-riddled teenage years.
2008 was a big year for the band as they featured on the (highly anticipated) Twilight soundtrack and released a live album: The Final Riot! Cracks began to show as gigs were cancelled but they sidestepped rumours to instead talk about their third album, scheduled for released late 2009. After supporting No Doubt, Paramore premiered “Ignorance“, a brand new song taken from their upcoming release Brand New Eyes. The darker take on their original sound was refreshing and the albums lyrical content addressed the inner qualms of the band, with many tracks openly highlighting Williams’ status and the effects on Paramore as a whole. Critics were impressed and the album became the band’s most successful to date, its honesty and raw emotion being noted as “down to earth and on top of the world”. After another round of huge tours, though, shit began to get ugly.
The group were set to take a break from touring in order to focus on their next album but in December 2010, a message from Paramore was posted on their official website. It told fans that Zac and Josh Farro had decided to leave the band after a year of hard feelings, to little surprise from the remaining members. It was a pretty sweet letter, championing happiness and support as well as assuring fans that Paramore would continue as a trio, equipped with a new core dynamic and heartfelt inspirations. Josh Farro responded with an open letter from the other end of the spectrum, calling Williams out on being the only member signed to Atlantic, treating Paramore as a solo project after being manipulated by her management and own hunger for fame. Cutting her deep, Farro. Keeping a cool head, Williams told fans to expect new music soon and in order to maintain interest, Paramore released The Singles Club at the end of 2011, a mini EP of four new songs mainly inspired by the Farro’s departure.
2012 was a year of radio silence from the band, resulting in a resurge of rumours that this line up change was final, the damage was done and Paramore were on the way out. Then came the news that they were back in the studio, brushing off the dust and getting ready for album number four, tentatively entitled Paramore. So what happened? Lots. Lots of good stuff.
2013 & Their Survival:
January 5th 2013. Paramore: “If there’s a future, we want it now”. Fan reaction: “isugfUHFGI”. This was the end of the beginning or vice versa, I’m not really too sure. All I know is, what a way to beckon in the new year. Interviews with the band came in waves, as if they were going out of fashion and Williams addressed the self-titled reinvention of the band: “I feel like it’s not only reintroducing the band to the world, but even to ourselves. By the end of it, it felt like we’re a new band”. And what a “new” band this turned out to be.
During Sydney’s Soundwave Festival, Paramore held a listening party for 10 lucky fans to listen to new material taken from the fourth album. The response was overwhelming, with huge attention paid to the mature, positive outlook of the music. January 22nd arrived and the band released the video for Paramore’s first single, “Now” – whilst the eyebrow-less Williams was an initial focus, the song was complimented for its gritty sound and apt theme. Our first taste of the new Paramore was a good one; familiar, interesting and bitter-sweet. They really had matured and developed, “Now” made that perfectly clear and soon the buzz for the album became almost unbearable. So how could they top their almighty comeback? Maybe with one of the greatest songs of the year. Oh, go on then.
“Still Into You” has everything you need in a perfect pop song: brilliant riffs, memorable lyrics, the subtle barks of a trusty synth, a flawless middle 8, a colourful video to match and even a “clap clap” bit. Dreamy. Showing off a lighter side to the band after the dark and brooding “Now”, Williams sings of her long term relationship with New Found Glory guitarist Chad Gilbert. It doesn’t sound like Paramore 10 years ago, it doesn’t sound like try hard Paramore, it sounds exactly how Paramore should sound in 2013: Cool, relevant, gutsy, commercial and, most of all, happy. After the success of “Still Into You”, it wasn’t long before their fourth album was finally released. After so many bumps in the road on the way to this record, fans began to worry if it was worth the wait. Turns out, there was never any doubt.
Paramore is a special kind of album, one which evokes an entire spectrum of emotions within the listener. Instead of settling for a self-righteous album full of one-up-man-ship (don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of references to the Farro brothers), the trio stretched themselves to further realms of inspiration in order to create an encapsulating and diverse selection of songs, addressing an array of topics from heartbreak to adolescence, closure to everlasting love. Williams’ and York’s lyrics are better than ever, simultaneously heartfelt and uplifting but honest and crushingly reflective at times. Opening track “Fast In My Car” lives up to its name through standing alone as a perfect motorway track, with the story of a hard done by but resilient band playing out. “We’ve got our riot gear on, but we just want to have fun” harking back to the earlier days of an untainted Paramore. The three “Interludes” split up the album clearly and neatly, offering a gentle, ukelele-driven comedown from the relentless barrage of excellence, reminding us why we’re all here in the first place.
The melodies in each song are thick and thoughtful, brimming with creativity and entirely different from the previous track. There has been a real focus on giving each song a sense of personality, often playful and seldom contrived. For old fans worrying about Paramore distancing themselves from what “made” them all that time ago, fret not. Their new, rather sonic, sound still harbours signature “(s)punk pop rock” elements but their experiences and new opportunities have opened doors in terms of production.
SHIT ANALOGY ALERT: They haven’t stuck to a winning formula as such, more so added some interesting and different ingredients, resulting in a fresh tasting/sounding cake/album. For example, the synth-y twinkles of “Still Into You” add nothing but a ethereal feel to a modern day love song whilst the castanets, nu wave guitar twang and background harmonies in “(One of Those) Crazy Girls” separate it from anything Paramore have ever previously recorded. A personal highlight is the introduction of a full blown choir in “Ain’t It Fun”, a real tour de force in this album’s diverse execution.
If the pairing of classic Paramore with a twist of 2013 isn’t enough for you, the band have met you in the middle. When discussing their favourite tracks, Williams stated ““Let The Flames Begin” has been a favourite of ours to play live, as well as being a favourite of most people who come to our shows. We wanted it to have a sequel. “Part II” it is!”. An honest and genuine follow up to the grand Riot! track, Part II is another highlight of the band’s fourth album and a genuine sign that this album is as much for us as it is for them. The loyalty to their fans isn’t something new either: after years of continuing appreciation and idolisation of their fans, Paramore invited competition winners to sing on Riot!‘s “Born For This“. Having been lucky enough to see them live several years ago and then again last month, you can genuinely see the progress and change in their dynamic; not only have they made the transition from a room filled with 600 tweens to arenas packed with thousands of loyal fans, their performances are consistently note perfect, packed with infinite energy, passion and gratitude.
Whilst the controversy surrounding Williams continues to be mildly addressed and swept under the rug, it seems as though the band are better off without the Farro’s after all. Paramore is, without a doubt, the best album the band have released in their 11 years (of ever-changing members) and their first to reach #1 in 8 countries. This holy trinity are ticking all of the boxes and more with their refined and perfected sound, offering fans personal tales of experience and hopes for the future. However, I do not envy their task of one-upping themselves: Paramore have previously spoken about their difficulties and anxieties writing for Brand New Eyes after Riot!‘s huge success and, now, following the critical acclaim their fourth opus has received, it’s a waiting game to see what these experiences offer up. I, for one, have faith, enough for all of us, that album number five will be masterfully crafted and suitably excellent.
Thank God Paramore survived the Apopcalypse because this is, hands down, one of the best albums of the year. And ARTPOP isn’t even out yet.