As you can probably imagine, I have been wondering how I would start this review -slash-what I would say ever since, well, 2009. Over the past almost four years, things have changed – as everyone is presumably aware, the Farro brothers are no longer in the band. They actually left a long time ago. Let me go on record by first saying this then: This review will not mention them anymore, since, well, they are no longer in Paramore.
After first listen: 5.0 – After second listen: 7.0 – After third listen: Oh my God!
-End review- Just kidding.
Honestly, throughout the chore of a listen (17 tracks, 65 minutes), that first time I felt a vast array of emotions – none of which were happiness. While that may seem odd to most Para-followers out there, let me explain – I was confused. There were little to no hints of the Paramore I had grown to love and/or obsess over. Who was this?
And so I started from the beginning again, after a letdown of an outro during the closing track “Future.” This next time, a picture began to develop in bits and pieces, yet still confusion and a little bit of frustration mounted. Lying there on my back, nothing seemed to connect. To say my mind was beginning to race and wonder would be an understatement. Horrifying visions of the trio playing only tracks from the 2013 release during their spring tour danced in my head – what was happening?
Then, the third listen. It was almost like A Christmas Story, you know? By Charles Dickens. The three ghosts of Christmas something come and steal Ebenezer Scrooge and show him some stuff that…wait, no…this is not right at all. It just clicked! That is the moral of the story, isn’t it? Ebenezer realized he was wrong all along, and so did Jarrod. I was, in fact, most definitely wrong. This record is absolute genius.
Let me explain now, since I can sense your confusion.
Hayley Williams, Jeremy Davis and Taylor York decided one day, probably at some point in 2012, that they were going to surprise the world. They were going to introduce their fans to something so unique and different from anything any of us could imagine. And while most of us would more than likely suffer from confusion and frustration (much like myself) during the first few spins, once it clicked, well, we would all once again bow to the band for continuing on with their awesomeness that we have always come to expect from them.
As for the highlights – to be completely honest, I could go on for quite some time considering there are 17 tracks, but here goes nothing. For starters, no two tracks really have any similarities, which is not something Paramore is known to do. They have always been a very pleasant pop/punk group that centers around an extremely talented female front. Since that is what they have always relied on, rightfully so, they never really felt the need to make much of a calculated change to that recipe. Up until now, it was no sweat off my back.
Many would argue that pop/punk and pop/rock are one in the same, but this is a classic example that it is just not true. This, Paramore, is a pop/rock album. From its start, that is very clear and while my grip on the pop/punk genre that had, for years, defined them loosened with each listen, my understanding and appreciation grew. They could literally do anything, and it would just work. Randy Jackson says it all the time on American Idol – “You could sing the phone book.” Or something like that?
“Hate to See Your Heart Break” stems a little further from previous Paramore classics “In the Mourning” and “Misguided Ghosts.” It resembles a Patsy Cline-esque country song straight out of Nashville. The track dives deep into the band’s Tennessean roots and really gets your attention – well that and the orchestra (violins and such) behind Williams’ elegance. Paramore doing a country song? Brilliant.
One of my least favorite songs off the album, a ’50s DooWop hit “(One of Those) Crazy Girls” literally reminds me of “Beauty School Dropout” from Grease. The song sticks out like a sore thumb, but for some strange reason, it is perfect for the record’s flow.
“Ain’t It Fun” feels as though it was written by Maroon 5. Since I actually don’t care for the band, you would think that I would despise this song. The strange thing is, it is one of my favorites. A funky, jazzy track, it almost feels as though Williams and Davis (formerly in a funk band before their Paramore days) decided to go back to the olden days and reignite some funk-flare from the past, bellbottoms and all – I hope not.
“Grow Up” is an instantaneous pop hit and “Proof” follows in its footsteps – they’re two of the catchiest songs that I have ever heard in fact. The feelgood pop attitude that accompanies these songs is stunning. Being that they are amidst so many other genres within the same compilation of songs is what makes them truly spectacular.
“Daydreaming” and “Part II” are probably the most similar to anything past-Paramore on the album. Since “Part II” is just “Let the Flames Begin – 2” that would seem obvious, but the fact that it even showcases the way they experimented with LTFB during their live shows is what is most impressive. The song (released in 2007 on Riot!) was never one of my favorites, but the style in which they performed it live was magnificent – extremely experimental and almost post-hardcore in its instrumentation. “Daydreaming” has a very Jimmy Eat World feel to it, and being that they have not only toured with the band, but take influence from them as well, it makes sense. The buildup leading into the plateau-chorus is radiant, especially in the car.
Then there are the “Interludes” which, as ukelele-filled as they are, serve as barriers between the different sectors of the record. Reminiscent of Laura Stevenson, the basic folksy feel is a nice break away from the country/pop/rock/doowop/experimental/jazz/ funk/punk flow of the album. Got all that?
The closer “Future” was a minor letdown at first. The beginning, being so delicate and wonderful, gives way to an explosion of sound which fades out…and then back in. It doesn’t really go anywhere – but the concept of forgetting the past and riding this new theme into the future is exactly why no more vocals appear and restrain the noise. At that point in time, nothing more needed to be said – just the music which needed to be heard, and so it was.
As long as this review is, much like the length of the album, it was necessary. So far, there has been a very critical response and with the departure of former members, much of the blame will root its way to that simple fact. While I agree that Paramore has changed, grown and developed their sound, I will also admit that I will miss the old times and their old sound. However, this record has clearly shown me that whatever they do, no matter what genre they decide to stick themselves into – I’m on board.
Congratulations on once again recording one of the year’s best.