Difficult second album? Not for Paramore, whose 2007 effort ‘Riot!’ propelled them towards mainstream success. However it was the touring schedule that brought the biggest growing pains, with the band rescheduling and cancelling numerous dates on the UK tour. Blamed on fatigue, but later exposed as communication issues within, album number three almost never happened.
It comes as no surprise that from the start of ‘Brand New Eyes’ there’s a strong sense of change. Whilst lead single ‘Ignorance’ is Paramore by numbers – essentially ‘Misery Business Part II’, from then on what’s most promising is how unlike Paramore the rest of it sounds. Let’s not be harsh, their blend of pop punk is fine, but after two albums there’s only so far they can go without repeating themselves. Fortunately tracks such as ‘Playing God’ and new single ‘Brick By Boring Brick’ do more than just bouncy choruses and memorable hooks. The difference? It all feels a bit more personal this time around and consequently less disposable.
It would be cliché to suggest that ‘Brand New Eyes’ may have been a cathartic experience for the band, but you don’t have to delve too deep to find references to their recent difficulties. On ‘Turn It Off’ frontwoman Hayley Williams knowingly refrains “And the worst part is, before it gets any better, we’re heading for a cliff”. Elsewhere on ‘Looking Up’ the line “I can’t believe we almost hung it up, we’re only just getting started’ speaks volumes.
However, ‘Brand New Eyes’ greatest strength is also its biggest weakness. For what the album benefits in maturity, it suffers in commercial appeal; as whole the album feels less instantaneous than their previous two, and may take a few more listens. Rest assured though, the album will only boost Paramore’s already rapid growth, with tracks such as the acoustic ‘The Only Exception’ bound to become a fan favourite; no doubt providing the all important lighter / phone in the air moment on their forthcoming UK arena tour.
Remaining unquestionably Paramore, whilst also offering up something new, ‘Brand New Eyes’ has delivered something quite remarkable. There are enough hooks and choruses to satisfy the dedicated, but enough progression to suggest this is a band not afraid to grow. Like the butterfly that graces the cover, ‘the album marks an evolution; from the carefree pop punk that emerged back into 2005, to one of 2009’s most prominent acts.