*** (out of four)
On 2009’s “Brand New Eyes,” Paramore singer Hayley Williams couldn’t believe the Tennessee outfit was still a band. On the record, which had its moments but often failed to excite like breakout predecessor “Riot!,” Williams sang about what it takes to stay together and the perspective that comes from being a hugely popular group.
Two of Paramore’s founding members since have departed, and the band now soldiers on as a trio for their self-titled new album, an effort to start fresh and do things the way Paramore 2.0 sees fit.
Williams still leads the charge, while songs like the excellent “Still Into You,” the heartfelt “Daydreaming” and the huge, echoing “Now” command as much as Paramore ever did. Over 17 tracks, though—three of those are interludes, featuring just a ukulele and Williams singing about moving on—Paramore stretches out, coming off like a few different bands. They engage bouncy pop (“Ankle Biters,” which shares at least a strand or two of “Walkin’ on Sunshine” DNA), sexy, gospel-inflected swagger (“Ain’t It Fun”) and pure, anguished balladry (“Hate to See Your Heart Break”). Accentuated by bells! “One of Those Crazy Girls” tries a little calypso, while “Part II (Flames)” finds Williams focused on her preferred topic of glory.
Needless to say, “Paramore” doesn’t exactly define cohesion, and it doesn’t shine in the most personal moments (such as nearly eight-minute, self-indulgent closer “Future”) the way much of Fall Out Boy’s often-bold “Save Rock and Roll” does. (A parallel exists between the records as Williams sings, “Some of us have to grow up sometimes; if I have to, I’m going to leave you behind” on “Grow Up.”) Still, as a playlist of the various songs this still-relevant band feels like making today, there’s more than enough fun and purpose to defend the approach.
In concert: May 9 at Chicago Theatre
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U
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