If the precocious Hayley Williams spends a lot of Brand New Eyes correcting bad behavior in others (“You treat me just like another stranger”), she enlightens with “Ignorance,” and then points out, “Next time you point a finger / I’ll point you to a mirror” on “Playing God.” All of this anger seems to be directed at some immature boy in Williams’ life; at least until we get to “Looking Up,” the eighth track. This pivotal song describes the near break-up of Paramore, an event that obviously still troubles Williams. “I can’t believe we almost hung it up,” she confesses. “Confessional,” however, is not a word that describes Williams much of the time. Yet confessional is the only word that fits “The Only Exception,” with its lyrical ode to rare love in a mostly loveless world. Exceptional love, the kind she never saw her parents share with each other, has suddenly and surprisingly found its way into Williams’ world. “Spiritual” is another word that rarely applies to songs on Brand New Eyes. In fact, “Careful,” oddly paraphrases Jesus with these words: “The truth never set me free/So I’ll do it myself.” The one clear place where the Christian life is alluded to is “Turn It Off.” The lyric, “I’m better off when I hit the bottom,” relays one of those end-of-her-rope moments, where only God can ease the pain. Musically, producer Rob Cavallo (who’s worked with Green Day, among others) gives Brand New Eyes a crisp, clear sound. For some reason, tracks like “Ignorance” bring to mind ’80s era Billy Idol. But the more I think about it, the more that analogy makes sense, because Idol made a similar transition from angry punker to angry mainstream rocker during that timeframe. And as good as Brand New Eyes can be, just wait until Hayley Williams begins to venture beyond her insular personal realm, and starts to see the wider world around her. That’ll be the true eye-opener.
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