CD Review: Brand New Eyes

(Fueled by Ramen)
Brand New Eyes Music •••• Sound ••••½

When Paramore abandoned its European tour in February 2008 with only a few shows left to play, the Tennessee-based outfit cloaked its excuses in vague shrinkspeak, citing "internal issues" that had been simmering for some time. The band members promised: "Maybe one day, we will tell the whole story, but for now, just know that all five of us are going to get it right."

Now comes Brand New Eyes, the followup to Paramore's 2-million-selling Riot! And if this album is any indication, they did manage to get it right. That's the good news. The bad news is that they haven't told the whole story of their near-implosion - yet they've left enough messy footprints all over these 11 songs to titillate fans. What we know is that the band was living its own latter-day rock soap opera akin to those of No Doubt, Evanescence, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It was stirred up when crimson-haired frontwoman Hayley Williams took up with New Found Glory guitarist Chad Gilbert - seeming to shift her allegiance from her declared "best friend"/guitarist Josh Farro. What we don't know is whether that new coupling was behind the European freakout. Still, the attendant fallout has inflamed Paramore's writing, resulting in this anxious but lyrically sophisticated record of recriminations, betrayal, and revelation.

Misunderstood and feeling wronged, Williams fumes through "Careful," all but pawing the ground in a Joan Jett-like snit, venting against a clashing wall of guitars and fretful, arrhythmic drums: "The truth never set me free, so I did it myself." Picking up where 2007's "Misery Business" left o , "Ignorance" shows just how willing Williams was to pack her bags: "If I'm a bad person / You don't like me / Well, I guess I'll make my own way." Singing in a stricken voice, she's on a precipice between breakdown and breakthrough.

In "The Only Exception," she finally gets that breakthrough, realizing that her own cynicism about intimacy lies in the ashes of her own parents' relationship. And in "Brick by Brick," she dismantles her childish beliefs and is ready to accept the responsibilities of a vexing maturity, in what seems like her own skewed version of Mariah Carey's The Emancipation of Mimi. I mean, why else put a butterfly on the CD cover?

Fortunately, this journey into Paramore's own heart of darkness has a happy ending. "Looking Up" is perhaps the most honest musical mission statement since way back in 1973, when Grand Funk Railroad unleashed "We're an American Band." Make that a war cry: "God knows the world doesn't need another band / But what a waste it would've been / I can't believe we almost hung it up / We're just getting started."