“No one’s the same as they used to be,” sings Hayley Williams at the outset of her band’s boldly catchy fourth album, her lightning-rod yelp ricocheting off new-wave synths and tense punk-pop riffage. For Paramore, it’s a prophetic lyric: On this expansive self-titled set, they’ve all but ditched the emo stiffness of their early Warped Tour days, plunging head-first into the slick, arena-friendly stylings of modern pop.
But Paramore isn’t an album of safe, simple hooks — it’s a deftly arranged and deceptively eclectic batch of songs, revealing sophisticated new layers with each listen. Working with producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen (who recently brought an expert wide-screen approach to the latest Tegan and Sara album), Williams and company try on new genres like pairs of shoes. The old Paramore wouldn’t have attempted a series of cutesy ukelele interludes, or country-inflected balladry (“Hate to See Your Heart Break”) or dreamy doo-wop (“One of Those Crazy Girls”).
Seventeen tracks is, arguably, a bit ridiculous — this is a pop album after all, not a concept-album prog-rock suite. But in blowing up their sound and going for broke, Paramore deserve props as massive as their ambitions.