Review Summary: While Paramore should probably be reaching a little mo-whoah oh oh-ore, brand new eyes is a solid and SERIOUSLY catchy record that will increase the legend of Paramore.
Paramore have achieved a lot as a band in the few short years of their existence. They became “scene” icons with their first record, All We Know is Falling
, and with the release of Riot!
(particularly the single “Misery Business”) they became a bonified phenomenon. This is due in almost complete part to one Hayley Williams, who in addition to being a surprising “sex” symbol and also a popular Christian role model (yes, apparently they can coexist), has one of the most audacious and hooky voices since Avril Lavigne first came onto the scene. Most likely because of her massive importance to the bands success, Paramore as a unit (also including Josh and Zac Farro, Jeremy Davis and Taylor York) nearly succumbed to the pressure all rising bands face and were close to breaking up during the time leading up to brand new eyes
. Instead of prematurely ending however, they channeled their frustration into the record. What does that mean exactly?
The most immediate difference on brand new eyes
is how much more bitter and cold the lyrics are. While there was some pre-madonna angst and venom on songs like “For a Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic” and “Misery Business”, brand new eyes
is filled to the brim with spite. While the novelty of this is fairly large, and hearing Hayley sing with a lot more emotional investment in the songs is worth the price of admission, some of the magic from previous albums. The songs are still ridiculously catchy and easy to sing along to, but at times you’ll be wondering if you really want to be singing along to lines like “Well if God’s the game you’re playing then we’ll have to get acquainted/Because it has to be so lonely to be the only one whose Holy”.
Musicially the band stays within their boundaries fairly well, doing more but never really branching out. As both a blessing and a curse, its hard to fault the band for doing what they do well and little else. The riffs are infectious and the drums will be fun to play on Rock Band, and the songs occasionally have extra flourishes that keep them distinctly different from each other. “Misguided Ghosts” sounds a whole lot like a Swell Season song, and despite Williams overpowering the subtle mood of the song at times, it has flashes of brilliance. “Looking Up” delivers on the promise of a “Misery Business” sequel, being less dramatic than most of the songs and more upfront and hard-hitting then most of its sisters on the album. Songs like “Playing God”, “Looking Up” and “Where the Lines Overlap” struggle to be individual, and they cause the record to drag when they appear.
The best songs on the album are built on Williams vocals as always however, and single “Ignorance” is a good example. While a fairly unique song within their discography already, William’s deadpan-to-outraged delivery creates sense of tension that is contagious. Closer “All I Wanted” assuredly is the most melodramatic tune the band had released (with some interesting parallels to Say Anything’s “Plea”), but Williams heartfelt performance and cries combined with the bands perfect sense of dramatic timing makes the song incredibly impacting. Similar is the bonus track “Decode”, which while not exactly meant to fit in with the record still stands as one of their best songs, and its inclusion as an extra gives the album a bit more credibility.
For all the praise I can heap on Williams and the band, a few key things hold the album back from being anything truly great. An insistence on staying within a few carefully defined borders really keeps a band that could create something special way too in line, and it bears way too many similarities to its predecessors to be much more than just another Paramore album. While it drops a lot of the fun of older material for a more serious, mature approach, even Adam Downer would agree that a lot of previous charm the band had came from the fun they seemed to be having. However, by sheer strength of will the band has salvaged an album that could have just been a derivative mess and created something pretty damn good in the process, and for that brand new eyes
should be praised while we await something even greater from these boys (and girl).