Laughing matter: Paramore goes old school with a new sound on ‘Hard Times’

Evin Hartsock, Sports Editor

     Are you having some hard times? Well, don’t worry, because Paramore has you covered. The Grammy Award-winning band burst back onto the scene last week after an almost four-year hiatus with the release of their new single “Hard Times.” The pop-punk group announced its next album, “After Laughter,” that debuts on May 12, as well as a summer European tour.

     Energetic frontwoman Hayley Williams and company turned back the clocks with their new single. The song and the video that accompanied it look and sound like something you would see on MTV in the early 80’s. This sound can be attributed to Williams’ recent obsession with groups such as the Talking Heads, Blondie and Cyndi Lauper that she discussed in a recent interview with the New York Times. Combine that with guitarist Taylor York’s exploration of international and softer sounds inspired by Afrobeat and other rhythmic-heavy genres.

     “We’ve gotten to a point with our new music where we don’t really want to headbang anymore,” said York in a recent interview with the New York Times.

     Instead of the heavily-distorted chords and meaty riffs of their past, Paramore has dipped into a cleaner, friendlier sound reminiscent of their Grammy winning hit “Ain’t It Fun,” that both hardcore fans and causal listeners can enjoy.

     The track has an extremely refreshing and upbeat tone that makes it hard to not move when it comes on, from its opening marimba-sounding rhythm that continues throughout the song, to York’s clean, synthed-up riff. Williams’ timeless vocals shine on this track, as they do on many Paramore tracks, as her runs and interesting choice of inflections in verses are just as enjoyable as they are funky.

 

 

     The infectiously catchy chorus does offer old school Paramore fans some of what they were hoping to hear in this album, as the lyrics still possesses some of the angst that had been more predominant in the band’s earlier albums. Despite the upbeat tone, Williams belts out “Hard times, gonna make you wonder why you even try/Hard times, gonna take you down and laugh when you cry/These lives and I still don’t know how I even survive.”

     These lyrics are in reference to the struggles that Williams has faced since the release of the group’s last album. Despite the success of “Hard Times” (it’s already amassed ten million views on YouTube and cracked the top 100 on the iTunes charts), the single almost never came to fruition.

     Shortly after the band’s “Self-Titled” tour was over, original bassist Jeremy Davis left the band, which was not a shock since Paramore has been plagued by lineup changes for the last decade. Each album the band has produced has featured a different lineup. Williams spoke about how these issues caused her to fall into a depression in an interview with Zane Lowe on Beats 1 Radio, and that it made her “want to quit the band multiple times.”

     However, early last year, Zac Farro (the band’s original drummer and brother to Josh Farro, Paramore’s former guitarist) linked back up with the band to work on the new album and helped breathe some life back into the group.

     If “Hard Times” is indicative of what the world will hear on the rest of “After Laughter,” it will make plenty of sense. This new sound seems like a natural progression as Paramore has had a slightly different sound on each album, steadily moving away from the punk days of “Riot” towards a friendlier sound, which was featured on their self-titled album.

 

     This new era displays just how versatile Williams and the rest of Paramore can be as a band, as well as their undying spirit despite the many challenges they’ve faced throughout their history.