Sunday, May 05, 2013

No love for Paramore

album review 

Since the band lost two of their band members, Paramore have yet to find the sound which brought them their initial fame 

Band: Paramore
Album: Paramore

Towards the end of 2010, pop rock band Paramore found themselves in turmoil. An acrimonious split with the band's co-founders - guitarist and lyricist Josh Farro and drummer Zac Farro - left the group down to three members amidst a very public squabble. The brothers claimed that the band had “somehow morphed into a manufactured product of a major label,” turning into a showcase for vocalist Hayley Williams while relegating the others to the background.

Now, nearly two and a half years on, the remaining members of the band return with their first album since the split and do little to dissuade the Farros' claims.

With 17 tracks running over an hour in length, the group's self-titled fourth album sees the remaining trio - singer Hayley Williams, bassist Jeremy Davis, and guitarist Taylor York - soldier on with the help of Lostprophets and Nine Inch Nails drummer Ilan Rubin, who has been recruited to record the drums for this set. Producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen helms the project and brings electronic influences with him that are sprinkled throughout the record.

Wrapped in tight hooks and infectious melodies, the eponymous album re-attests to the fact that despite their attitude, Paramore really are a pop band at heart. Taking a step away from their diluted punk sound and incorporating more synth and electronica into their music, Paramore have created their most diverse album to date. From the gospel choir on the soul influenced 'Ain't It Fun' to the three ukulele driven interludes, the group tries different things on these tracks, adding whatever embellishments strike their whims. The results offer variety, but never present a cohesive picture of the group.

Experimentation is a commendable thing, and the band deserves props for expanding their musical palette, but going off in every direction at the same time doesn't result in the most self-assured project, and that is the predicament that befalls Paramore. Put together, the album feels like it's all over the place and suggests a band that is trying too hard and is uncertain of their identity and unfocused in their experimentation. Even with the supposed adventurous overtures, the record still slants towards a more pop-oriented and mainstream sound instead of going for touches that are more unique and innovative. Also, the album comes off as a little overlong; it might have helped if Paramore had left out some filler and gone for a shorter, more consistent set.

The lyrical content too isn't a particularly impressive element of the record. The lyrics could use fine-tuning and have a long way to go as far as maturity is concerned. Whether it's the clichéd ballads or the up-tempo romps, the words here aren't exactly the most striking and memorable part of these songs. Plus the group's decision to make what appear to be veiled (or perhaps even direct) references to their issues with and feelings towards the Farros isn't the most respectable way to go. Dissing your former bandmates (on songs like 'Interlude: Moving On' in which Hayley sings “let 'em spill their guts, 'cause one day they're gonna slip on 'em” and “let 'em play their songs, let 'em say what's right and wrong”) is just as charming as Taylor Swift droning on about her exes.

Overall, Paramore is an ambitious but overlong pop record that is playful and catchy, but offers less punk rock and displays more mainstream tendencies. The results often sound like a cross between Taylor Swift and Gwen Stefani/No Doubt, and are likely to appeal to the same demographic. The new set might split fans, although there is something here for (almost) everyone; longtime fans are likely to appreciate songs like 'Proof', while mainstream listeners will enjoy the straightforward pop of tracks like 'Still Into You'. Those who thought of Paramore as nothing more than glorified bubblegum pop aren't likely to be impressed by this record, although they could possibly find a song or two here that they might enjoy. Hopefully this album will help Paramore figure out who they really are and decide which direction they want to take so that they can hone their creative energy and make the solid pop record that this one hints towards.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 5th May, 2013

No comments: