- The Washington Times - Friday, June 12, 2009

Paramore catapulted to international success with “Riot!” a cathartic record that fused pop melody with rock ‘n’ roll muscle. Released in June 2007, the album sold more than 1 million copies during its first year, an increasingly rare feat in the unpredictable music industry. Paramore’s members were predominantly teenagers at the time — the youngest, drummer Zac Farro, turned 17 several days before the album’s release — and their songwriting talents belied their years, an asset that endeared them to adolescent fans and adult audiences alike.

Two years later, the band continues to evolve. Recent growth can be charted on Paramore’s new album, not yet titled but slated for release in September.

“There are similarities to ‘Riot!’ on the new record,” says guitarist Josh Farro, “but we’ve grown a lot since then. It really shows. It’s not like we completely changed our sound, but this is definitely a new direction.”

Paramore’s new direction wasn’t easy to find. The band nearly split up in 2008 after months of relentless touring. The musicians had become physically exhausted and creatively drained by the process. It didn’t help that media outlets tended to focus exclusively on Hayley Williams, the band’s charismatic female vocalist.

The emotional turbulence proved to be good lyrical fodder for a new album, however. Paramore made amends and returned to the recording studio, where the band mates began working on their first album as genuine superstars. They blocked out all outside influences — touring pressures included — and focused exclusively on the job at hand.

“With the last record, we thought about how the songs would sound in concert,” Mr. Farro explains. “With this one, we didn’t have that live mind-set. It was more about how we could make each song sound the best on record.”

Recording sessions wrapped up several weeks ago, just in time for Paramore’s summer-tour opening for No Doubt. Unfortunately, the band won’t be playing much new material on the road.

“I’m ready for this album to be out,” Mr. Farro says definitively. “It’s kind of frustrating to go work on a new album for a few months, record it, get really stoked on it, and then have to go back to your previous album. You can’t play any of your new stuff, and you can’t show any of it to your fans, because it’s supposed to be a surprise. I’m very anxious to release the new one.”

Until the album arrives in September, fans can enjoy the band’s existing catalog — including such Top 40 hits as “Misery Business” and “Decode” — during Paramore’s summer tour. One new song, “Ignorance,” also has turned up in the band’s recent sets, although Mr. Farro laughs at the novelty of playing unfamiliar material in such large venues.

“It’s awkward,” he affably admits. “We’ve worked with our older songs for a couple of years. We know how to move around with them and play them comfortably, but ‘Ignorance’ is so new that you always have to wonder what you’re supposed to do next.”

Paramore and No Doubt visit the Nissan Pavilion on Sunday. Doors open at 7 p.m., and ticket prices range from $10 to $80.

‘Sewn Together’ again

After nearly 30 years together, the Meat Puppets have learned to do things quickly.

“We recorded our recent album during a five-day session,” explains Curt Kirkwood, who founded the group with his brother Cris in 1980. “We took our time mixing it, but the whole thing was quick. I’ve never found it in me to labor over stuff.”

Curt Kirkwood’s reluctance to dwell upon the past has lent a sense of momentum to his band. Throughout the ‘80s, the Meat Puppets expanded their audience with an evolving blend of punk, country and psychedelic rock. As the next decade unfolded, they received a strong boost from Kurt Cobain, who performed three of the Meat Puppets’ compositions on Nirvana’s celebrated “MTV Unplugged” album.

The Meat Puppets eventually became stars in their own right. Mainstream success was fleeting, however, and it came with a price.

Cris Kirkwood struggled with substance abuse throughout the decade’s latter half. As his condition worsened, jail sentences and overdoses wove themselves into the Meat Puppets’ history. He eventually was ousted from the lineup, splintering the band’s core.

The brothers buried the hatchet and reunited several years later. A spirited, confident effort, “Sewn Together,” showcases the renewed chemistry between the Kirkwood siblings.

“We play a lot of live shows, so it was easy to cut this album,” Curt Kirkwood explains. “It’s a good representation of the interplay and the overall dynamic of our three-piece band.”

“Sewn Together” is a mature effort, featuring a blend of brotherly harmonies, swirling pop/rock guitars and the percussion of Ted Marcus. It also lends itself well to live performance — so well, in fact, that the band has considered playing the entire album during every concert.

The Meat Puppets will visit the Rock & Roll Hotel on Saturday. Retribution Gospel Choir is slated to open the concert, and music begins at 10 p.m. Tickets are $16.

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