From having a near-religious affinity for Paramore's sophomore effort Riot (it's still in my car's CD player), there was a fear that their latest venture Brand New Eyes would not live up to the previous album's success. That fear could not be more irrational.
Riot was a high-octane album, full of powerful rock anthems like "Misery Business" and even a few cigarette lighter songs like "We Are Broken." It even inspired a live album, The Final Riot, replete with DVD and Blu-Ray releases. Needless to say, it would be a hard act to follow.
Having heard the debut single to Brand New Eyes, "Ignorance," I thought "Okay, same kind of stuff as Riot, but I like how they're sticking to the formula." However, all too often a debut single can mislead the listener into thinking that the album itself is something completely different than it really is.
But when you put in Brand New Eyes, you get much more than the appetizer of "Ignorance" would indicate. The first track "Careful," is a dynamite assault, baptizing the listener into a Paramore that isn't afraid to follow the success of Riot.
Following "Careful," you get the appetizer that you think you bought the album for. We're then lulled into a lighter but no less powerful song "Playing God," which challenges: "if God's the game that you're playing / well we must get more acquainted / because it has to be so lonely / to be the only one who's holy."
"Brick by Boring Brick" keeps the listener on his or her toes with a powerful rock ballad that will surely become a staple for many Paramore concerts to come. After that, we're treated to "Turn It Off," a lighter rock song, but with a powerful chorus. The thing to listen for in this particular song is the bridge where lead singer Hayley Williams belts out the word "again" to a higher level of heavenly sonic beauty.
You wouldn't normally expect a song like "The Only Exception," from a band like Paramore. It's a softer acoustic-driven song that has a light tinge of folksiness that would betray the band's power rock image. Chalk it up to their diversity as a band. But as we'll hear later on, "The Only Exception" is not the only time we get a taste the band's softer side on this album.
I like to think of the next two songs, "Feeling Sorry" and "Looking Up" as the twin songs of the album. They could easily stand alone as two separate songs, but the way "Feeling Sorry" ends and "Looking Up" begins, it sounds as if they should be one big six-minute song. "Looking Up" appears to be a reflection on the band's success and how they've handled it.
"Where the Lines Overlap" follows in the same vein as "Looking Up," an upbeat tune that seemingly reflects on the band's success.
"Misguided Ghosts" is about as light as it gets for a band like Paramore. Listening to it, you'd swear that you were in a dark room with a few candles around. The soft acoustic guitar of "Misguided Ghosts" sets a mood altogether uncommon for most rock bands when they aren't doing an episode of MTV Unplugged. Nonetheless, the ambitious change of pace pays off in this soft and elegant song.
But the album ends with a song that seems to sum up the album. "All I Wanted" is a melodic rock tune that seems to offers us an idea of what Brand New Eyes is about: lighter and more diverse, but still edgy. At about 2:40, listen for the rich definition in Hayley Williams' unbridled "All I wanted was you!" It's nothing short of beautiful for a rock fan.
When assessing the qualities of this album, I'm reminded of some of the reflective lyrics in "Looking Up": "God knows the world doesn't need another band, but what a waste it would've been," and "I can't believe we almost hung it up, we're just getting started."
We agree, Hayley. It would certainly be a waste to not keep rocking. We're glad you didn't hang it up and that you're just getting started.