Track Review: Paramore – “Running Out of Time (Re: Panda Bear)”

Posted: by The Editor

Paramore’s recent release Re: This Is Why is essentially a remix album albeit with more conceptual freedom given to the artists involved. The beauty of this loose approach is that an average song, in the right hands, can be made incredible.

In the original “Running Out of Time”, a N*E*R*D*-lite dance-rock instrumental bops along with an unstable descending arpeggio while Hayley Williams describes slightly stressful scenarios (i.e., “Didn’t want to show up to the party empty-handed but I ran out of time”). It’s a well-performed, well-produced piece of nothing.

Noah Lennox (aka Panda Bear) takes the barest bones of this song—fragments of Williams’ powerful voice, the aforementioned arpeggio—and transforms them into something metaphysical and moving. While the original takes a literal approach to the phrase “running out of time,” Lennox uses it as the basis for contradictory and existential musings on the quotidian (“I’m planning the getaway/Or grinding the life away/I can’t tell”). The instrumental feels completely unstuck, as if gravity does not apply to it. Elements drift in and out across the stereo field: a tremolo guitar, a detuned whistle tone, a synth arpeggio, a vibraslap. Devoid of context, these instruments, and the unusual phrase lengths in which they are placed, create a hallucinatory sound-world that feels wholly unique. The insistent tambourine provides the rhythmic backbone, while sporadic vocal samples, often reversed or repitched, bubble up to the surface intermittently. In particular, Williams’ belted “Are you running out of time?” provides a contrast to Lennox’s more measured delivery and
a structural hook upon which to hang the controlled chaos of the production.

The momentum never lets up, with one notable exception. Just before the commencement of the the final section everything stops. When it recommences, it’s not quite the same. The chord progression shifts to a darker harmonic colouring, while the arpeggio is pitched down and even the lyrics take on a more sinister tone: “Think I feel a fracture in the mirror/I can’t tell/And I got a feeling/It’s unlocking/Now I’ve fell.” Much like the second half of Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, the song’s second half presents the nightmare opposite of its dreamy opening. It feels almost like a magic trick. The ambiguity of the minor 7th arpeggio upon which the track is centered allows Lennox to keep shifting our perception of the music. Much like the lyrics, in which a line is often contradicted by its opposite, the feeling of the song is reversed just when we feel we have a handle on it. Perhaps Lennox’s greatest trick is making us forget the original Paramore song. It’s the rare rework that makes its source material… disappear.

Re: This Is Why is out now.

Fenn Idle | @fenniscool

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