Review: “Hard Times”

I’m unreasonably excited for Paramore to be back.

It’s probably because I’ve seen so many of the bands that I grew up with during the height of pop-punk try to make comebacks only to fall flat on their faces, but Paramore’s “comeback,” their 2013 self-titled album Paramore was released under so much adversity (losing two of their founding members, Hayley Williams’ burgeoning/always ready to launch whenever she feels like it solo career) that it was a pleasant surprise when the album turned out to be a strong all around effort from the group. While their self titled wasn’t a full reinvention, and on a song by song basis wasn’t as strong as their most famous tunes, but, songs such as “Fast in My Car,” and personal favorite “Proof” still brought fans the classic pop-punk vibes that the group had been known for. The album did show that the band had a ton of hidden potential, and creativity to spare. Sugary forays into straight up pop like “Still Into You” and “Ain’t it Fun,” a few ukelele interludes, and a couple of well-performed stripped down ballads showed that they were willing to sacrifice commercial viability for reinvention/the concept of an artistic album, and that they weren’t afraid to take chances to create music that was different than what they were already known for.

That brings us to today, when Paramore (still a three piece, but with bassist Jeremy Davis gone and old drummer Zach Farro returning), announced their fifth album, After Laughter, and released the first single from that album “Hard Times.” Following the same path as “Still Into You,” “Hard Times” is a bubbly piece of 80s retro-inspired electro-pop in the same vein as Trouble In Paradise-era La Roux and to a lesser extent, “Closer”-era Tegan and Sara, and I can only hope (*fingers crossed*) that it will be a huge hit this summer, because I do not mind hearing it/mashing the repeat button at all at this moment in time. There are hints of the Talking Heads (the way that Williams nonchalantly says ‘and I gotta get to rock bottom’), and some funky rhythm guitar a-la Chic, but it reminds me especially of Nile Rodgers’ more recent collaborations with Daft Punk. Some may call “Hard Times” “selling out,” but with results this good, it’s hard to blame the band for wanting to change direction slightly once again.

Don’t even get me started on that unbelievably catchy percussion and robotic outro, it’s pure pop perfection.

The video for “Hard Times” is a frenzied beast of its own – featuring Williams front and center with a new, bleach blonde (still miss the orange) dye job in front of a colorful, 80s inspired set – complete with colored static lightning bouncing from place to place, lots of jumping/dancing, retro outfits, sunglasses, and coloring book styled visuals that were so popular in the 80s. Tons of artists and bands have been doing this 80s reboot in one way or another (and have been since about 2010), but Hayley Williams and the rest of the band pull off this transformation so flawlessly that I doubt you’ll care that it’s been done to death.

After Laughter is out May 12th on Fueled by Ramen – and if “Hard Times” is indicative of the rest of the album, we’re in for a treat.

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