As a three-piece band — live, they play with an auxiliary guitarist, a keyboardist and a drummer — there’s been less creative congestion and a galvanizing sense of freedom.
“We all want to be here. We all want to grow,” says York. “We have a better relationship with each other than ever and we’re more open to ideas, and trying things, and taking ourselves outside of the past.”
Over the new album’s 17 tracks, the trio negotiates a fresh reconciliation between rock crunch, emo bluster, R&B verve and pop gloss that should make Pink, Kelly Clarkson and Fall Out Boy all grind their molars.
Most satisfyingly, the latent R&B that’s always trickled through Paramore’s songbook has finally surfaced and bloomed. Williams’s voice has never sounded more powerful or elastic than it does today. With “Ain’t It Fun,” a new jack swing-flavored tune that York and Davis cite as a turning point in the band’s songwriting process, Williams holds her own alongside a gospel choir — something that should provoke eye rolls, but because it’s a Paramore song, magically doesn’t.
Elsewhere, the band starts to resemble the Cars and Tangerine Dream and Blondie andLiving Colour, but it never stops sounding like Paramore. That’s because loud, shameless, euphoric catharsis will always be its defining trait.
“If we’re gonna connect with people, we need to be honest,” says Williams, which means spilling your guts even if you accidentally “slip on ’em,” as she sings in one of her lyrical darts.
“It’s just like sitting down with a friend over coffee,” she says. “You talk about that thing you’re going through, the things you’re feeling, the things that are heaviest on your heart.”
The intoxicatingly mushy love songs on “Paramore” signal that life is good, but Williams hasn’t donated her poison pen collection to Goodwill. The album’s first three cuts address the band’s fissure head-on, culminating with “Grow Up,” perhaps the album’s most radio-ready kiss-off: “Some of us have to grow up sometimes . . . So if I have to, I’m gonna leave you behind.”
On stages and behind microphones, Williams projects fearlessness and ambition ungoverned. She might be the most ebullient rock-and-roll frontperson of her generation. But flanked by York and Davis backstage on the couch, she still seems the tiniest bit squirmy about Paramore’s first steps back into the pop wilderness.
“Everything is falling into place the way it’s supposed to,” she says. “And I have to believe that, or else the last two years would have been the most insane roller coaster for nothing. . . . All I can do is be excited right now. We got a second chance to be Paramore.”
She keeps her hands tucked in the sleeves of her polka-dot blouse, but her fists are clenched.
performs at the Fillmore on May 18.