Paramore triumph with an explosively political and personal album, ‘This Is Why’ review

Image credit: Paramore

Paramore are back after six years of highs, lows and a pandemic, with a powerful new album This is Why.

Paramore are back and trying to navigate a post-covid, volatile world in style and groove. Six years after their 80s synth-pop inspired 2017 album After Laughter, the band are back with ‘This Is Why’, a 10-track, politically charged, jittery post-punk record released through Atlantic Records. Heavily channelling influences such as Foals, Bloc Party and Talking Heads, this is the sound of a band reborn into unexpected new sounds while remaining true to themselves.

In the six years since their last record and throughout the pandemic, the band – Williams, drummer Zak Farro and guitarist Taylor York – have primarily been silent but popped up now and then to remind the fans they are still around. Williams providing some inspiration and comfort during the pandemic with her solo outings, Petals For Armour and Flowers for Vases, released in 2020 and 2021, respectively. She also popped up during a Billie Eilish gig in 2022 for a performance of Paramore’s controversial 2007 hit, Misery Business. This downtime was much needed for a band that has been making music since 2005 and has seen countless members go and return – Zac Farro left the band in 2010 along with his brother Josh but returned in 2017.

Image Credit: Paramore

‘This is why / I don’t leave the house / You say the coast is clear / But you won’t catch me out,’ Hayley Williams sings on This Is Why, the dark and anxious title track from Paramore’s sixth album. The first song on an album has to set the tone and This Is Why does that with an angry panache. Skittering and inconsistent drums swirl along and convey a look-over-your-shoulder sense of paranoia, while William’s instantly recognisable voice has an edge and maturity rarely seen on a Paramore album before. There’s also a marimba section which, while a happy-sounding instrument, adds to the growing uneasy feeling of the song, a throwback to their happy-but-uneasy 2017 venture, After Laughter.

The News’ is Paramore’s most politically charged and loudest track for years, since their 2007 hit track ‘Misery Business’. ‘Every second, our collective heart breaks, all together, every single head shakes,’ Williams urgently sings about our 24/7 connection to the news, unable to ever escape it. It’s almost a call to arms and a warning from Williams. Her voice is set against a punchy baseline and stabbing guitars – akin to the violin’s in Hitchcock’s Psycho – the song culminates in a thumping chorus and is one of the highs from the album.

Paramore are at their creative peak as they explore new musical avenues on This Is Why, moving away from their standard pop-punk sound – but remaining typically Paramore – and leaning more into their influences, Bloc Party and Foals, who they will be touring with this year. William’s solo work is a key influence on This Is Why. The spoken word verse on ‘C’est Comme Ça‘ – French for ‘it is what it is’ – is one of these new musical avenues; similar verses appeared in 2020 and 2021 on William’s solo albums. Featuring a feverish guitar hook – which wouldn’t be out of place in a Talking Heads song – and a chorus that will stick on your head, William’s gets personal on C’est Comme Ça, delving into therapy, the need for a certain degree of internal conflict and being off caffeine on the doctors’ orders. The songwriting on ‘C’est Comme Ça’ is the weakest of the album, but the catchy guitar hook and groovy baseline more than make up for it.

A stark contrast to Paramore’s previous ventures, This Is Why releases the pent-up anger they held back on their previous records, releasing all the emotion outwards in tracks such as standout tracks Big Man, Little Dignity and Figure 8. On the former, Williams gets playful and alludes to watching certain potentially political figures, ‘smooth operator in a shit-stained suit’, on tv and fantasising about their demise, something we’ve all thought. Figure 8 sees William’s conflicted and stuck in an endless thought cycle. Helped by the repeating guitar, it is the anxious apex of the album, sounding like an actual spiral of thoughts and chaos. The three songs post Figure 8 on the album – Liar, Crave and Thick Skull – sees Williams calm and continue the vulnerability from ‘C’est Comme Ça’, singing about intrusive thoughts and her own failings.

While the songwriting is occasionally too simple and repetitive, This Is Why is a fearless triumph. It is in touch with the state of the world, from the post-pandemic recovery to the seemingly 24/7 horror show that is the news and everything in between. Paramore captures the collective feeling of uncertainty in this explosive and personal record, a bold reminder of their growth and ability. This is Paramore at their finest and most creative.

Paramore’s album This is Why is out on February 10th from Atlantic/Fuelled by Ramen.

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