PHOTO | Sven-Sebastian Sajak | Creative Commons
Hello, reader. It’s the dragging days of the springtime semester; spring break isn’t coming for a few weeks, and we’ve just hit the middle of the term. If you’re like me, you’re beginning to feel the days wear on- but I think I might know just what we need. First of all, a coffee, and once you’re finished with that, I recommend you pick up “This Is Why,” the newest addition to Paramore’s discography.
You know Paramore, the Tennessean rock band formed in 2004 and headed up by lead vocalist Hayley Williams with Taylor York on guitar and Zac Farro on percussion. They’re legends within their own rights, with hits like “Misery Business” and “The Only Exception” that remind you of their early years and also “Ain’t It Fun” and “Still Into You” that are reminiscent of their later sound. These hits highlight the levels of evolution that Paramore as a group has gone through; it’s also a testament to the strength of Williams as a frontwoman in a band that, until this record, has never had a consistent, consecutive lineup. Their last record release was 2017’s “After Laughter,” which reintroduced the band as an almost new wave 1980s pop, but then Paramore went quiet.
In January 2022, the band confirmed that they had entered the studio to begin work on their the forthcoming album, which they described as “guitar heavy,” with Williams stating, “We’ve found ourselves listening to a lot of older music that we grew up being inspired by.” Williams later commented, “From day one, Bloc Party was the number one reference because there was so much urgency to their sound…,” and urgent would be a particularly insightful way to describe what we received on February 10th with the release of “This Is Why.” Paramore goes post-punk, taking their turn in a long line of alternatives before them.
“This Is Why” opens with a self-titled track, a first for Paramore. The song has a definite air of Bloc Party and Talking Heads influences. York’s twinkling and glittery guitar riffs mesh so well with the driven chords that punctuate the chorus, “This is why / I don’t leave the house / You say the coast is clear / But you won’t catch me out.” Williams’ dynamic harmonies feel so controlled and intentional in both her delivery of the staccato chorus and the operatic verses. The rhythm on the track goes bonkers, too; everything feels jittery and caffeinated. The following track, “The News,” is a similar heavy, thrumming song that revolves around the anxieties that accompany living in a society and keeping up with the terrifying current events of our country. Williams is in her Joker era on this one.
On “Running Out Of Time,” Williams sings dryly, nearly coldly, about the futile nature of intentions versus actions all over a groovy synth and string and reverb instrumental. Farro’s percussion on this track is showstopping, keeping time with many winding, long-winded tempo changes in a way that seems to naturally flow from his drumkit and mesh with the other backing instruments like a loud conversation between vibrations.
“C ‘est Comme Ça” which is French for ‘that’s just the way it is’ is another driving punk track that would fit right in amongst perhaps a Parquet Courts project, but somehow feels genuine and authentic through Williams’ delivery. One might think that these are multiple personality changes.
That Paramore has undergone in the past almost twenty years might alienate their longtime fans, but instead, this track was incredibly well received as a single. “You First” is a cutting revenge moment that draws on many of the aforementioned Bloc Party influences, not only instrumentally but also in Williams’ dynamic vocal performance.
“Liar” is probably the weaker track on the record, and it is also the most muted and melancholy. I don’t think that the correlation is necessarily the causation for this, but it makes it a little bit more underwhelming overall. “Crave” is similar, with distorted and jangly/beachy guitar that only gives way to a build or grand moment on the back half.
“Thick Skull” is the closer of the album, and I want to be completely transparent with you, reader- the first verse sent a literal shiver down my spine, gave me goosebumps, and made tears well up in the corners of each eye. “I am a magnet for broken pieces / I am attracted to broken people / I pick ‘em up and now my fingers are bleedin’ / And it looks like my fault / And it looks like I’m caught red-handed.” It’s haunting imagery that is so typical of Paramore but so universal. Haven’t we all reached out to hold onto someone we love only to come back from it worse for wear? Haven’t we all reached the middle of the spring semester in our senior year and still not had any clue what we will do with our lives? And who, in these moments, do we lash out to blame if not ourselves? Or maybe I’m projecting; who knows?
Overall, “This Is Why” is a bright light focused on the dark alleyway that post-punk sometimes gets shaded inside of. I think that Paramore’s take on this style of music and the band’s influence on young musicians could very well shift us into a renaissance of sorts, and I am all for it. This trio continues to strike gold all these years into their formation, and I can’t wait to hear what’s next. I give “This Is Why” a 9.5/10.