On the same day that Harry Styles released his debut, "I'm a rock star now" solo album, Paramore released its "We're not just an aughts punk band. Oh and our old drummer is back but our bassist left" album. But it's also pop-y! With 80's vibes too! And makes you want to dance; like not head bang but actually dance. It's catchy as hell.
The differences between life now and life when Paramore was headlining Warped Tour, is that punk rock isn't really cool anymore. Right? Very few people wear primary colored skinny jeans* out of choice and side bangs are a thing of the past. (See: Paramore swapping out skinny jeans for matching utility jumpsuits) Now we wear bandanas as neck scarves, Stan Smiths or Old Skool Vans, *muted* colors, and light denim. Punk is sort of laying low right now. But it still shaped the trajectory of popular music as we know it.
It's weird to talk about Paramore's 'evolution' as a band because they're not the same band now as they were when they started. The timeline of the band's makeup - who joined when, who left first, and who is now back - is important to Paramore's identity. Should it be trivial, though? It doesn't not matter, but it isn't the only thing that matters. They're friends who make music together and always have been. If Paramore's changing roster has given them anything in return it's something to write about.
As they've mentioned in recent interviews, during the Paramore's hiatus between their self titled album and After Laughter, a lot of life has happened. And for most of Paramore's fans... "same."
While the sound of this album is different and unlike anything Paramore has made before, the lyrics are familiar. Grudges talks about mending a weakened friendship, Pool talks about giving a relationship a second go, Idle Worship talks about the unrealistic standards we hold celebrities to and the pedestals we put them on...
Hey baby, I'm not your superhuman
And if that's what you want
I hate to let you down.
Then there's Caught in the Middle; an anthem about the relationship between self doubt and self determination, which coincidentally feels very descriptive of my life right now. The lyrics can't help but make the song invoke that "no one understands me so I just have to lock myself in my room for a few hours and play this on loop" vibe that was so defining of the scene that Paramore came up in. It's easy, upon hearing Hard Times, to say that with this album Paramore has strayed far from its punk pop/rock DNA. But I think they're just redirecting the angst that fueled them from the very start into a new kind of sound, seeing it through a new lens. Aren't we all?
I'm just a little bit caught in the middle
I try to keep going but it's not that simple
I think I'm a little bit caught in the middle
Gotta keep going or they'll call me a quitter.