Rachel Chandler talks through the evolution of Paramore’s sound throughout their decade-long career
I remember hearing a Paramore song for the first time. This is a sentence I don’t say about a lot of bands actually which surprises me considering a lot of my memories are deeply tied up with music. I was sat on my family desktop computer with the dial up modem browsing my friends Piczo page and all thanks to Music Jesus, an incredible website the let you embed music onto you Piczo pages, ‘For a Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic’ started playing out of the speakers and I was hooked. Before this I guess my music taste was based largely around what most people liked at the time. Sure, I had the ’emo’ tendencies in me, with the first ever album I ever bought with my own money – from Borders nonetheless. R.I.P – were Green Day American Idiot, Good Charlotte Young and Hopeless and Linkin Park Hybrid Theory (yes, all in the same purchase) but this was something unlike I’d ever heard. There was, and still is for me, something captivating about Hayley Williams’s voice and the unapologetic way that Paramore present their music. Since hearing it, of course I immediately had to buy both Riot!, their sophomore album, and their first ever album All We Know is Falling. That was 10 years ago now. I’m no longer a 12 year old listening to a Paramore CD on my Sony Walkman Disc player, but some things don’t change, and my love for this album is one of the things that I don’t think ever will. The platform that I listen to them on may have, but my love for Riot stays strong 10 years down the line so here’s a look back into the evolution of the band, right up to the latest release ‘Hard Times’ off their latest release, 5th album After Laughter.
Let’s go all the way back. It’s 2005 and Paramore, original line up of Hayley Williams, Josh and Zac Farro and Jason Bynum release debut album All We Know is Falling. It’s definitely the album that’s most firmly seated in the ‘rock’ category, with some songs being a bit too heavy for my liking, but it’s the album that brought us ‘Emergency’ and ‘Pressure’, with which the latter was actually on The Sims 2 as a song on the rock radio station. I don’t know why that seems noteworthy to me but there you have it.
2007 saw the release of Riot!, which I’m including here solely for chronological purposes, as I’ll later go onto declare my full love for it.
So let’s instead fast forward to 2009 and we have the release of Twilight, or as it’s fondly known by the vast majority ‘Twishite’. Forgive me father for I have sinned, I’ll admit that I loved Twilight, I was one of those obsessed Twi-hard teens who went to see it 7 times in the cinema. True story, a sad one never nonetheless, but one thing I’ll never live to regret is hearing that soundtrack. At risk of going off on a tangent, The Twilight Saga really did deliver across all its soundtracks, but with not one but TWO Paramore singles on the first, it makes it truly something. ‘Decode’ was a moody and brooding song that fit the film perfectly and catapulted Paramore into the stratosphere along with The Twilight Saga. The jaunty and jangling ‘I Caught Myself’ also featured, a stellar song.
Later that same year, Brand New Eyes the band’s third album was released. This album retained the essence of Paramore, but felt more ‘grown up’ in terms of shedding light on the discord within the band with the single ‘Ignorance’ a song penned by Williams about her fellow band mates. It’s a diss track, but a banger. This album brought us more self reflection and an altogether more soft side to Paramore, with the mainstream ‘The Only Exception’ hitting audiences that wouldn’t ordinarily listen to Paramore, here meaning my mum. Shoutout to you Karen, I know how much you love that song. It’s not that Paramore hadn’t shown this delicacy and fragility before, Riot! features ‘We Are Broken’ a beautiful piano led song, but there’s something in the simplicity and raw openness of ‘The Only Exception’ that reached the masses.
Four years later, the self titled album Paramore revealed yet another layer to the ever growing band. With the bitter and rather controversial loss of the Farro brothers from the band not long after the release of Brand New Eyes, this album took on new meaning, it was discovering a new vision and sound for the new trio. The album brought the fun, and I mean that as a compliment. ‘Fast in My Car’ is exactly made for that purpose, for screaming along with your friends whilst driving around god knows where. Bear in mind, this is a band that grew up as we did so it was good to hear the good alongside the bad. ‘Ain’t it Fun’ and ‘Still Into You’ saw a massively poppy era of Paramore beginning, one that some fans took issue with. Even in those such songs though, you can still hear the thing that makes them Paramore, those relentless guitars and Hayley Williams’ impressive and distinctive vocals. ‘Still Into You’ also marked the move of Paramore songs into most clubs – yes I am thinking specifically of Mosh Leicester right now – but it was a song that wouldn’t just be played in the pits of bottom floor indie/rock, but also the middle floor of chart lands. ‘Ain’t it Fun’ is a playful song that exudes happiness, I challenge you to listen to it and not unconsciously tap your feet and get those shoulders moving.
Their latest releases ‘Hard Times’ and ‘Told You So’, the lead singles from their newly released 5th album, carries over this sense of fun. With another line up change, seeing Jeremy Davis leave and Josh Farro return to the band, it’s another step on the tumultuous journey of Paramore. It retains the lightheartedness of the self titled album and carries itself on the partially indie jingling guitars but keeps the signature Paramore-esque lyrics that juxtapose the happy music.
But let’s temporarily go back to Riot!. There’s something un-ageing about songs like ‘Misery Business’. Whilst it may not be the most feminist song ever written, you can’t really say that you’ve never felt like this. It’s one that you still scream at the top of your lungs when it comes on in a club.
There’s a timeless endurance to Riot! that’s hard to explain. I’m not sure if it’s a personal bias, but speaking to fellow Paramore fans they agree: Riot! is a special album. To this day there is only one song on the whole thing that I skip and that’s purely because for me it’s my least favourite on the album, it’s by no means a categorically bad song. It’s an album that has nostalgia built into it, it has all the teenage angsty goodness that was EXACTLY what we all needed in 2007. ‘That’s What You Get’ is the ultimate scorning and bitter track aimed at yourself for being infatuated with someone you know better than to do so with. ‘Hallelujah’ is a surprisingly uplifting track about exactly the opposite; letting yourself fall in love and that overwhelming and optimistic joy that it can bring, with some incredibly powerful vocals from Williams. ‘When it Rains’ fulfils the near perfect pattern that this album has emerging of uplifting and downtrodden perfection of any good pop punk album. With the wonderful simplicity guitar riffs interspersed alongside the thrumming rhythm guitars. ‘Let the Flames Begin’ is an anarchic and smart beat, an unrelenting switch between quiet yet powerful verses and then explosive and signature ‘Paramore’ choruses. It’s a personal favourite from the album and one that holds a special place in my heart. I could honestly try and analyse why this album has a longevity for me that most other albums have managed to fall short of, but much like music itself, there’s something inexplicable about it. Maybe it’s Hayley Williams’s voice, maybe it’s just because this is a band that I grew up listening to, one that saw me transition from socially awkward and inept pre-teen into a somewhat more competent 20 something year old, but ‘Riot!’ holds a power and an aura that’s magical and makes me feel everything that I felt when I first heard ‘For a Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic’ blaring through those speakers 10 years ago.
Whilst it’s undeniable that this new sound isn’t the Paramore sound of my youth, it’s one that I can’t help but be happy with. We’ve all grown up a bit and whilst ‘Riot!’ will always hold a special place in my heart, it’s time to make way for a more grown up and generally more chipper Paramore. But in the meantime, catch me listening to Riot to tide over the wait. Cheers for the 10 years plus Paramore.