This Is Why is the sound of matured discord. Its title track, quaintly art punk through the angularity of Taylor York’s guitar, is Paramore’s 2023 thesis; the shaky solicitude of post-lockdown life, with takedowns of society’s inability to exhibit kindness in the wake of tragedy – “if you have an opinion, maybe you should shove it” – and a chorus that secedes, forcing singer Hayley Williams back into isolation – “this is why I don’t leave the house / you say the coast is clear but you won’t catch me out”.
But despite these quivers, including Williams often trading her 2000s emo primal scream for a cautious wince comparable to her stripped-back solo outings, the discord grows, the lonesome hermit decuples in size and busts through the tedium of its living space, tearing the house down, brick by boring brick. There is chilling grip invading Williams, according to You First, “the devil sitting on my shoulder”, but such anxiety inspires one of Paramore’s most exhilarating choruses – “everyone is a bad guy, and there’s no way to know who’s the worst” – and many others in the same camp. Hell, the mere tirelessness of C’est Comme Ca’s chorus is enthralling; it may sound like a cheerleading routine, it only quivers in its well-humoured assessment of banality – “in a single year, I’ve aged one hundred / my social life, a chiropractic appointment” – but it’s evidence of This Is Why’s ability to find more than just a couple of ways to offer conviction with each song, each heartbreak.
Thus, the album follows in the aching footsteps of predecessor After Laughter – a similar commitment to displaying adulthood’s fallibilities, albeit less societally-driven – whilst playing around with post-punk revivalism, dressed up in the studio, boom, presentable angst. Post-punk revivalism adopts psychedelic qualities; The News may as well be a slightly modernised cover of a ‘60s garage rock hit; the downstream pre-chorus of Running Out of Time sees Williams’ voice haze out in a spree of meditation, the best way to work out whether one is or isn’t “a selfish prick”.
York’s sharpened guitars team up with Zac Farro’s busy drums to create the perfect vessel for Hayley to lament atop and scream atop, allowing her voice to shake with a merger of panic, defeatism and motivation over the chorus of Crave. Half-and-half, slow-burning instrumentals may support her unpredictable emotional spasms, see Thick Skull. But even more commendable is the addition of clarinet and flute, supplied by session musician Henry Solomon, to make songs like Big Man, Little Dignity and Figure 8 even more poignant. The former is dreamy, tender despite displaying Williams’ continued rage – “you keep your head high, smooth operator in a shit-stained suit”. Its synthesiser, tangling semi-funk textures, and “keep thinking” refrain are straight out of After Laughter.
This Is Why is totally conscious where its dialogue is concerned. On past Paramore albums, with youth as an excuse, seldom was there a nod and a wink. Adulthood is covered in nods and winks, the new concealers for pimples, the self-aware enlightenment that breaks up panic. Their latest runs off of its enlightenment like an energy drink, reflectively, catchily, with a crazy heart that continues to necessitate any day that a new Paramore album is released.