Suffice to say touring with No Doubt left an impression on Paramore. Maybe not so much in the musical side of the band’s adorably aggressive pop-punk, but flamboyantly tressed vocalist Hayley Williams has taken several empowerment and meaningful-lyrics lessons to heart.
In the sparse, acoustic “Misguided Ghosts,” the 24-year-old admits, “We just go in circles/Now I’m told that this is life/And pain is just a simple compromise,” while debunking rescue fantasies in surprise highlight “Brick by Boring Brick.” The latter’s big chorus is an exception to the rule; Williams truly shines as a frontwoman on more thoughtful tracks like cutting-through-the-bullshit declaration “Turn It Off,” sweetly engrossing narrative “The Only Exception” and measured, soaring closer “All I Wanted.”
Deliberately toning down the sound and fury of sophomore effort Riot! in places (and addressing inter-band drama in “Ignorance” and “Playing God”) might otherwise belie deliberate steps toward maturity if the rest of the album didn’t overdose on over-enthusiastic spunk to spare. The rest of the (male) band might be most to blame for keeping one foot in well-tread territory—and for previous near-destructive jealousy of Williams’ media attention. Because, let’s face it, she’s the star here; wherever she goes, fans will follow.