Reviewed by Mark Plummer
With a mammoth seventeen tracks, this is no easy listen. Releases have been turning around to a more manageable 10-12 tracks of late, so this is a metaphorical finger to those and taking a more risky approach, and that’s just the track listing. This self titled release, on more than a few occasions, will really test the most avid listener. There’s a diversity that some may not have been ready for, but in the long run, it takes this release to better heights.
Straight away, the feel of the album is that of a band who belong in an arena. Ilan Rubin (Lostprophets, The New Regime, Nine Inch Nails) has really made this stick through his work behind the drum kit. His renown prowess is second to none and recruiting him has given Paramore a lot of power to build around. To back this up, Hayley Williams has taken her vocals on aboard and, without overreaching, carries soul and power in a very balanced manner.
The bulk of material is certainly of the sort, that it expands on previous material from Riot! through to Brand New Eyes. Rejuvenated in essence, this Paramore sounds more polished and the finished article. To begin with something feels foreign, there’s still a heavy rock vibe through out, but it takes a bit of getting used to. This is due in part to a more electronic feel, it’s not strikingly obvious, but there are little parts here and there where the synth or fuzzy bass really shines through and exposes itself.
In an album that sets out to explore what Paramore are all about, Ain’t It Fun is intuitive in breaking new ground, whilst still keeping a hand on who they are as a band. It brings into play more funk and a certain Mariah Carey of old. A very prominent bass and low end mix adds a lot of danceability whilst Williams vocals come into their own with some diva-esque projection. Most of all, when Williams starts singing “ain’t it fun?”, the key and honest response is, yes, yes it is!
On the surface, seventeen tracks seems like a mission in itself, but the addition of three ukulele interludes instigates a much needed respite. Helping to break up the album into more manageable chunks, they’re laid back enough to not give the listener too much to do other than to digest each previous segment. These interludes give the album it’s flow, seamlessly transitioning from genre to genre, part to part with ease.
This album does not digress, it stays on track and makes short, but relevant detours to explore a little something different every now and again. Producer, Justin Meldal-Johnson (Beck, Nine Inch Nails, M83) may appear to be a slightly risky appointment given his lack of production material. However, he has brought a grand approach that has helped to meld both rock and the more mainstream, electronic and RnB vibes into one. It is both bold and beautiful with its deliverance and contains an appreciation of the trouble that Paramore have had to entail to reach this peak.
4 out of 5