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Paramore returns with massive retrospective

Dylan Dobson, 4Play Editor
May 8, 2013
Filed under 4Play

There’s a sort of irony in the fact that the new album from pop-punk act Paramore is self-titled. Instead of sticking to their signature sound of sharp guitars dominated by the sharper vocals of fiery-headed rock goddess Hayley Williams, the band instead takes listeners on a tour of female-fronted outfits throughout rock ‘n’ roll history on what might be its most diverse and successful album to date.

The album kicks off at full speed with the party anthem “Fast in My Car.” The track, the riff of which sounds directly lifted from Hole’s “Celebrity Skin,” is equal parts Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Pink and Metric. It’s also the definitive example of what “Paramore” has to offer — an homage hodgepodge spanning generations and genres.

Williams delivers her straightforward lyrics with toothy chagrin. Her energy transcends the format — it’s extremely apparent she’s having fun toying around with the new material. The instrumentals are appropriately lively as well. All of this makes the bare bones lines like “we’re driving fast in my car and we want to have fun,” sound actually urgent and full of weight.

The second track, “Now,” would have been at home on the most recent Yeah Yeah Yeahs release. The track, on which Williams borrows her best attempt at mimicking Yeah Yeah Yeahs vocalist Karen O’s curdling mewl, sounds a lot more progressive than anything the band has put out before, with production that sounds almost industrial.

“Grow Up” is poppier — a bit Gloria Estefan and a bit Paula Abdul — but somehow manages to sound distinctly property of the band. “Some of us have to grow up sometimes,” Williams sings on the track’s chorus. This is not only a statement regarding moving on from a relationship that outlived its relevancy, but also a mission statement from a band determined to stay relevant in a changing genre landscape.

While the band has given in and thrown synths on the album, it refuses to sound like any other. It’s one of the few bands to manage this feat in an era filled with generic-sounding electronic rock outfits.

“Ain’t It Fun,” another of the album’s highlights, owes even more credit to Estefan and Abdul. It combines the raw vocals of Paramore’s first release “All We Know is Falling” with springy instrumentals and rhythms extremely reminiscent of Abdul’s breakthrough hit “Straight Up.”

Williams also panders to the indie-rock crowds on several ukulele-driven interludes scattered throughout the album. These refreshing tracks bring to mind the stylings of Pomplamoose, Little Joy or the “Adventure Time” soundtrack, and also help to break up the otherwise lengthy 17-track album. They also serve to remind listeners that despite her attempts at sounding grown-up, Williams is extremely young and vulnerable.

Keeping this in mind, it’s not a surprise that tracks like “Still Into You” and “One of Those Crazy Girls” sound a lot like the old Paramore — the punk rock equivalents of Taylor Swift tracks. Still, the punkier moments such as the breakneck “Anklebiters” more than make up for a few whiney breakup songs.

Coupled with the attempts at deeper songwriting, the album presents a more-than-modest offering that should satisfy all but the most disenchanted and pretentious listeners.

“Paramore” sees the group breaking out of its comfort zone and experimenting a lot more. There’s growth in almost aspect — from the diversity of production styles to the way Williams takes control of her vocal styling. Moreover, the album is just pure unadulterated fun.

Fans of the group will relish “Paramore” for the way it finds grounding in the band’s past material while updating the band’s otherwise juvenile sound. Similar to when blink-182 released “Neighborhoods,” “Paramore” shows a sense of maturity and direction in a band once preoccupied with teen angst and youthful romance.