In 2009, Paramore released its third studio album, Brand New Eyes. The cover featured a pulled-apart butterfly pinned to a fence and the lyrical content was angrier than anything Paramore had written before. That’s because Hayley Williams was pissed off. She was pissed off at her bandmates, something the band talked about at length in interviews about the album; it became increasingly apparent that the band was not quite as united as it once had been. About a year later, two of its founding members left (in a pretty nasty split). And then there were three.
Those three (Williams, Taylor York and Jeremy Davis) have just dropped a new record after much anticipation. Paramore was released Tuesday, April 9, and it’s arguably the band’s best album to date. But if you thought Williams was pissed off on Brand New Eyes, that was nothing compared to the controlled rage she exhibits on Paramore.
The pixie-sized powerhouse’s vocals are absolutely on point for the entirety of the record, whether she’s raspily singing to an acoustic backtrack on the three “interludes” on the album, screaming about the things in life that get you down in “Anklebiters” or crooning the slightly sad, really lovely “Last Hope”.
York and Davis hold their own, as well. The instrumentals on this album are hard-hitting and jarring, as emotional as the vocals and lyrics of every song. Paramore features a lot more storytelling than previous efforts by the band, but it also features a lot of highly personal content — as well as throwbacks to previous records. For example, “Part II” begins, “What a shame we all remain / such fragile, broken things.” The lyric changes just one word from a line in “Let the Flames Begin”, an album track from 2007’s Riot!: “What a shame we all became / such fragile, broken things.” The songs also sound incredibly similar.
It’s clear from the ghosts on this album, like the one mentioned above, as well as the experimental tracks and sounds, that Paramore is growing up. With just three of its members still in the band and such a nasty media storm behind them, Paramore provides a sense of being reborn. It talks about love and heartbreak and betrayal, but with an undercurrent of real hurt and determination to succeed regardless of that torrid past that clearly comes from the band’s experiences since 2009.
Williams’ lyrics on this album reflect that growth. She sings on “Fast In My Car”, the opening track on the album,
Been through the wringer a couple times
I came out callous and cruel
And my two friends know this very well
Because they went through it too
The three of us were initiates
We had to learn how to deal
And when we spotted a second chance
We had to learn how to steal
Even the track titles on the album are indicative of the struggles the band has faced in recording this album, quashing rumors and maintaining a sense of unity in spite of everything. “Now” and “Future” open and close the album; the three interludes are titled “Moving On”, “Holiday” and “I’m Not Angry Anymore”. It may have taken Paramore a long time to get where it is today and this album may have been a very, very long time in the making — but it was worth the wait. It’s the best thing the band has done and indicates only positive advancements for the future.
I’ll be seeing Paramore at the House of Blues in Boston on May 15 — the same venue where I saw them live for the first time in 2009. (I also saw them twice in 2010.) Having finally listened to Paramore in its entirety, I can’t wait to see how the songs translate live. It’s going to be one hell of a ride.