brand new eyes
Perhaps no one in the music world today, save maybe Green Day, is executing the pop-punk formula with the kind of muscular finesse Paramore is. Fronted by a fiery-haired 20-year-old named Hayley Williams, this raucous emo quintet from Franklin, Tenn., has arrived—as evidenced by the fact that their latest effort beat out the likes of Mariah Carey on the pop charts, barely getting bumped from the top spot by Barbra Streisand.
The band’s previous release, 2007’s Riot!, was a slow-burning success, eventually selling more than a million units. That disc, coupled with nonstop touring and constant media exposure … almost destroyed the band. Those tensions—which Hayley and her bandmates have talked about at length—take center stage here, along with Paramore’s increasing maturity when it comes to subjects such as pride, failure and learning from our mistakes.
Spin magazine said of Hayley Williams, "There’s no limit to Williams’ disgust with phoniness in all its forms." That’s an apt intro to brand new eyes. And while Hayley may put others’ actions under the microscope, she never shies away from viewing herself with similarly fierce scrutiny—even if the lyrics she pens are at times pretty cryptic.
Album opener "Careful" explores cloaked emotions and discontentment, eventually counseling listeners to embrace reality instead of living in denial ("Open your eyes like I opened mine/It’s only the real world: a life you will never know/ … You’ve got to reach out a little more"). "Brick by Boring Brick" revolves around metaphorically burying an unhealthy fairy tale that’s kept someone from living fully in the real world ("Go get your shovel/And we’ll dig a deep hole/To bury the castle"). "Turn It Off" finds Hayley praying in an effort to say no to her selfishness and pride, only to find that she’s sometimes her own worst enemy ("I scraped my knees while I was praying and found a demon in my safest haven").
Elsewhere, "The Only Exception" seems to be about believing in the possibility of lasting love despite being overwhelmed with "evidence" to the contrary. "Feeling Sorry" admonishes a friend to move forward instead of languishing in self pity. "Looking Up" is a celebration of the fact that the band survived ("I can’t believe we almost hung it up/We’re just getting started!"). Closing out the album, "Misguided Ghosts" revolves around learning from mistakes, while "All I Wanted" expresses a plaintive longing to once again experience a love that is no more.
Hayley vents spleen in some unhealthy ways on two songs. "Ignorance" is petulant and sarcastic, with Hayley telling someone (likely her bandmates), "Ignorance is your new best friend." And Hayley suggests she might make a finger-pointer live to regret it on "Playing God" ("Next time you point a finger/I might have to bend it back or break it"). A confusing allusion to John 8:32 inverts what Jesus taught as Haley sings, "The truth never set me free/So I did it myself."
Much has been made of the fact that the members of Paramore are Christians. But with the exceptions of a reference to prayer and a brow-furrowing misuse of a well-known scriptural teaching, however, faith isn’t a subject the band addresses much on brand new eyes.
Instead, Paramore unpacks raw emotions in the wake of conflict and misunderstanding. And, more often, reflects on the process of growing up, taking responsibility for yourself and trying to speak truthfully to yourself and to others—even when the truth hurts.