Hayley Williams’ January claim that her band’s new album was influenced by Alt-J, as barefaced an attempt to cling to the relevance of a nearby Mercury Prize winner as could be imagined, cannot have been taken very seriously by many. Furthermore, Paramore’s lacklustre performances at Reading & Leeds must have convinced most that Williams should have taken the hint in 2010 and finally disbanded this ageing relic of the pop punk era when founding members Josh and Zac Farro left, claiming that the singer was treating the band as her own solo project. It seems like a distinctly classless move on her part to make an eponymous album when the band is barely recognizable as the same group of musicians who produced hit album Riot! in 2007.
Perhaps we could forgive her that if Paramore was anything but a few professional musicians going through the motions while their flame-haired lead singer tries to delude herself that her dream is still alive. First single ‘Now’ was disappointing, with Williams noticeably doing nothing more than trying to sound the same as she always has and sounding completely at odds with the oddly grungy guitarwork. This is evident throughout the album, except during three inexplicable ukulele interludes which serve no purpose other than to confuse the sound of the work. The other supposed hit, ‘Still Into You’, seems to display a glimpse of self-awareness as Williams moans “I should be over all the butterflies” (the cover art for Brand New Eyes featuring a butterfly) and also makes a vague attempt to justify her Alt-J pretensions with some electronic noises jitter around in the background. But the song doesn’t even manage to provide a catchy hook, once a reliable staple in a Paramore song. Only on ‘Proof’ does Williams come close to the joyful choruses of the band’s past, injecting energy into the chorus as she cries out “the only thing that I need/Is you”.
For those who manage to make it through this astonishingly long album, ‘Future’ provides a more stripped down sound, and something of a glimpse into Williams’ true feelings as she moans “We don’t talk about the past”. It begins to look like this might actually be an interesting point in the album, with wide-ranging guitars and slowly building riffs extending to a massive soundscape at which a belted, heartfelt chorus from Hayley Williams, who if nothing else has seemed vocally proficient, would put a high note on a severely pointless album. However, somewhat predictably, Paramore aren’t really sure what to do with the cacophonous crescendo they’ve created and so instead it fades out, fades back in again as if desperately begging for us to give it more time and then stops.