Paramore – Brand New Eyes

Growing up is hard. Still, it’s not exactly made any easier when it’s all happening during recording sessions. For Franklin’s Paramore, it was the us-against-the-world mindset that fuelled their 2003 debut, All We Know is Falling – recorded when they were just teenagers.

As they grew as people, however, they learned to additionally grow as musicians. 2007’s RIOT! brought to the limelight a significantly different band. Tracks like Misery Business and Born for This presented a band still angry with the world somewhat, but much more eloquent – and subsequently confident – about it all. As the band cracked the mainstream further with a spot on the soundtrack to the tween sensation film Twilight, pressure increased on following up RIOT! properly. Brand New Eyes is the result of said pressures – and despite possibly being their best album yet, it’s not going to please everyone.

For one thing, we’re dealing with much darker themes than some girl who stole vocalist Hayley Williams’ boyfriend. Paramore are dealing with the ever-continuing search for identity in much bolder and grittier tones; as well as paranoia, vicious human nature and the difficulties with the concept of love. These may certainly seem like generic, done-before ideas; but the beauty in Brand New Eyes is the band’s ability to take their reactions to these situations and concepts by articulating them in refreshingly different ways.

In turn, we see the record both starting and finishing with arguably the most aggressive, in-your-face songs the band has ever put to record. Careful commences proceedings sweepingly and unapologetically; with spiralling, crashing drums in a head-on collision with slicing guitar chops. Hayley’s bold, unremorseful vocal delivery hasn’t lost one step of its catchiness since the last time we left it.

All I Wanted, on the other hand, is quietly bitter during its verses – that is, until things skyrocket when the chorus makes impact. The simple, seemingly generic lyric of “All I wanted was you” is transformed into the defining chorus of Williams’ career, as she delivers the line several times with higher-range brilliance. If you’re looking for any validation of claims that Williams has improved significantly as a singer with each release, look no further.

Elsewhere on Brand New Eyes, the freshly-expanded quintet put all their ambition and energy into music that’s purposeful, well-arranged and, on occasion, shockingly poignant. It also covers more musical ground than Falling and RIOT! combined.

You’re after uncompromising and powerful? The melancholic yet inspired album highlight Playing God has you covered. How about some straightforward, biting pop punk in a throwback to the band’s earlier work? Try the pugnacious Feeling Sorry. Perhaps, even, a venture into acoustic ballad territory? While it’s formerly untouched for the band, it nevertheless proves to be as comfortable a transition as any. The Only Exception is a swaying number which may rank as the band’s most personal song to date; Misguided Ghosts a quiet, sweetly-played track with a bleak lyrical outlook but performed with a lot of heart.

Paramore have gone far too long as being perceived as a –  “chick singer’ pop novelty. With the release of Brand New Eyes, it’s becoming ever-increasingly clear that this is a band that are going to be keeping their foot in the door for a while to come – no matter how much it hurts.

Brand New Eyes is out now on Warner Music. Paramore plays Soundwave 2010.