Review Summary: The band behind Williams takes a huge step in the right direction; Hayley takes about 5.
However frequently Hayley Williams jumps on stage in a Paramore is a band
t-shirt, it's impossible to deny that her role as a frontgirl is one of the most dynamic and crucial in mainstream music, if not music as a whole. If Brand New Eyes is intended to be the record which changes that perception, then Paramore clearly still have a lot to learn, for a couple of reasons. On their third studio full-length, the band behind Williams finally does become (for the most part) the band alongside
Williams, but at the same time, the red-haired starlet puts in an insanely good individual performance which propels her and the music Paramore create to new heights.
But Brand New Eyes is a misnomer of a title; Paramore are still not crafting 10-minute pop-rock epics or showing an overly varied collection of influences. They're a pop-rock band, and preliminary single Decode is a good indication of what to expect from the follow-up to 2007's Riot!, which opened the band to the mainstream. 2009 sees them having maintained that public interest with their Twilight OST contribution, the bonus track here, which sounds just like a Paramore song but with slightly more robust guitars and an overall darker aesthetic. It would be inaccurate to say that Brand New Eyes keeps that same serious edge throughout, as its upbeat numbers are plentiful (duh) and even though most of its tracks deal with arguments, angst and relationships, Williams adds her usual honest and direct twist at every juncture. On Playing God she asserts, It's just my humble opinion, but it's one that i believe in: you don't deserve a point of view, if the only thing you see is you,
and she sounds undeniably sincere.
Momentous, punchy guitars and relentless rhythmic intrigue are, as normal, the name of the game, but there are well-executed tangents all over the place. Heavier moments seem to fit seamlessly (opener Careful, for example) and imply that Paramore are capable of continuing farther down that road should they so desire. There are a number of songs here that have that same sentiment attached; however much it sounds like Coldplay's Yellow, The Only Exception is a beautifully written, heartfelt ballad which never suffers from its repetition because it's just so cute, and the Laura Marling-esque Misguided Ghosts is restrained and sophisticated. There's the Evanescence-tinged All I Wanted, which houses an a-capella line that stands as one of the record's most powerful vocal moments.
But all this said, the reason Brand New Eyes is as good as it is lies in the band's long-standing strengths; Williams still knows how to write an incredible hook (Turn It Off's chorus is nonsensically catchy and energising) and the band know how to turn and jolt often enough to keep the pace, the mood and the emotion fresh and genuine. In its variety, Brand New Eyes is probably not much different to its pre-decessor, but in its consistency and execution, it's superior on so many levels. To put it simply, Paramore's third LP will rightfully keep them at the top of their genre and cement their position as one of pop-rock's least guilty pleasures; there are still a million places it would be nice to see them go, but when the songwriting's as good as this, why not stay put a little while longer?