Album review: Paramore – This Is Why

Tennessee titans Paramore ponder life, love and what we lose as the world grows louder on striking sixth album This Is Why…

Album review: Paramore – This Is Why
Sam Law

For a couple of evenings last October, Paramore were back to being overlords of emo. Nestled alongside My Chemical Romance as co-headliners of Las Vegas’ uber-showcase When We Were Young, the Tennessee trio delved deep into their catalogue, springing only a couple of songs written after 2013 and reminding us why we fell in love in the first place. Evidently, however, not an ounce of that nostalgic pandering has leaked into splendid sixth album This Is Why.

If you have an opinion, maybe you should shove it,' Hayley Williams intones over the playful first chords of the title-track. On one hand, it feels like a throwback to the quiet venom with which the singer made her name. On the other, it’s a signpost that she’s proudly going her own way.

Six years since Paramore unveiled the jangly art rock of After Laughter, the songwriting of these 10 tracks feel like a natural evolution: slightly older, slightly wiser, quite a lot more outraged at the state of the world. Beneath its subtly driving math-rock, The News bemoans the overload of bad tidings from around a world that’s crumbling in spite of its connectedness. Running Out Of Time loads its hip-swinging dance beats with the anxiety of the emptying hourglass. The clever-clever C’est Comme Ça (French for ‘that’s just the way it is’) becomes a reckoning on impending middle-age – chiropractic appointments, cutting back on caffeine – with wry good humour.

Hayley and drummer Zac Farro have each dropped a couple of excellent other records in the last few years (her Petals For Armor and Flowers For Vases solo albums; his Natural Disguise and Motif releases with HalfNoise) but it’s remarkable how distinctly Paramore this still sounds. Partly that’s down to the sterling work of producer Carlos de la Garza who’s been with them since 2013’s self-titled landmark. Even more significant is Hayley’s willingness to once again tap into the heightened version of her real persona, trampling over the throbbing bassline of You First, upping the high-energy melodrama on Figure 8, slipping into the almost adolescent heartbreak of Liar.

Truly emphasising how far they’ve come since emo’s heyday, these songs have as much (or more) in common with alt.pop icons like HAIM, Alanis Morissette or Fiona Apple as even they do with even Paramore’s poppiest ‘rock’ contemporaries like Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco. There’s also a tantalising comparison to be drawn between Hayley and megastar pal Taylor Swift, for whom the band will open next month: both iconic vocalists who’ve grown up in the spotlight, dissolving their sugary façade to reveal the emotional complexity and more abstract art, within.

Ultimately, though, as the romantic ebb-and-flow of Crave opens into its celebration of the ‘future and the past connected’ and closing track Thick Skull spins its old-school introspection (‘I am a magnet for broken pieces / I am attracted to broken people’) into a bracingly contemporary composition, it’s impossible for those of us who’ve been with them every step of the way not to be sucked back into this intriguing next chapter of the Paramore story – and to know that, at heart, they’re still the kids they used to be.

Verdict: 4/5

For fans of: PVRIS, No Doubt, Sløtface

This Is Why is out now via Atlantic

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