Feb 10, 2023
By Chris Thiessen
Paramore have got us where they want us now. Despite releasing no new music since 2017’s After Laughter, the pop punk veterans find themselves at that perfect cross-generational point in their careers, increasingly beloved by the Warped Tour nostalgics, as well as TikTokers who brought the band’s 2007 smash “Misery Business” out of retirement with a clever Olivia Rodrigo mashup. The easy thing here for Hayley Williams and co. would be to play it safe, load up on fan service, and cash in on their cultural moment. But on This Is Why, the group’s sixth album, Paramore sound like they’re making the music they want to make while dealing with the shit all around us we need to face.
The album’s first four songs play like an anxiety suite, capturing the sorts of feelings we’re all feeling all the time as well as anything I’ve experienced in the last three years, all through the medium of Talking Heads-inspired, funky dance punk. In just four songs, they tackle the anxieties of carrying the burdens of global brokenness (“The News”), the divisiveness of contemporary discourse (“This Is Why”), the uncontrollable loss of time (“Running Out of Time”), and the frustrating journey toward “getting better” (“C’est Comme Ça”) with impeccable relatability. Paramore has shown a knack for diagnosing collective emotion before; they did it on After Laughter songs like “Hard Times” and “Fake Happy” quite well. But there’s just a bit more bite on This Is Why. Taylor York’s guitars jab and slice with more edge. Zac Farro’s drumming is locked in, driving songs forward with impressive force and precision. And then there’s Williams, equally engaging when she’s belting at the top of her lungs (like on closer, “Thick Skull”) or doing her best impression of Dry Cleaning’s Florence Shaw on “C’est Comme Ça” where she talk-sings, “I’m off caffeine/On doctor’s orders/Said it was gonna help to level out my hormones/Lucky for me I run on spite and sweet revenge.”
This Is Why, like After Laughter, suffers slightly from front-loading imbalance. The back half of the album feels tonally different from the front, more personal and relational and coming closer to their pop punk roots. It’s all well executed, however, and offers a glimpse into the ways we’ve all had to deal with the universal and the particular simultaneously in these last few years. (www.paramore.net)
Author rating: 8/10
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