What could “rock” possibly mean to your ordinary everyday mainstream kid in 2009? Former Timbaland session guitarist Kevin Rudolf’s “Let It Rock,” which subtracted everything but the synths from Bon Jovi’s “Runaway” and had about as much in common with its titular genre as US3’s “Cantaloop” had with jazz? The All-American Rejects’ bitches-be-crazy whine-garden “Gives You Hell”? Green Day’s pompous cry to be shot by both sides “21 Guns?” Some putrid sub-Nickelback dregs from the rock charts that I’ve no stomach to taste-test? With no substantial basis for so doing, I like to think that for at least a few kids, “rock” might have meant Paramore.
Hayley Williams was pop-punk’s Final Girl, lashing back acidly at emo’s slasher boys, with co-writer/guitarist Josh Farro her weapon of choice. She also out-sings her dumb boy competition, in terms of technique (check out her tweeted “Bad Romance” cover for some tasteful chop deployment) as well as intensity. Maybe Paramore wouldn’t have sounded so good if more pissed off young women were permitted on the radio. For sure, Williams wouldn’t still be standing if not for that hint of hard-rock hysteria, hailing back not just to Evanescence but Pat Benatar.
Those as chart such niceties considered “Ignorance,” and its home album Brand New Eyes more generally, as indicative of a more adult Paramore, though for all I know that may just mean Rob Cavallo made the guitars louder. In fact, in the hook lyric “Ignorance is your new best friend,” as on the Sisyphean follow-up to “Ignorance,” “Brick by Boring Brick,” I hear the tail end of adolescence putting on young adult airs. Williams reels off those fancy articulations of rage that keep you awake when all you could say to his face was “fuck you fuck you fuck you fuck you.” But the more direct, all-ages accusation “You treat me like just another stranger” — applicable whether you’re being snubbed in study hall, on the campus quad, or at the local rock club — and the sarcastic “Well, it’s nice to meet you, sir” vent far more eloquent fury. I’d offer the indignation with which Williams wails the former and the snide way she barks the latter as dispositive evidence to anyone who dares doubt that Paramore were the decade’s second-best teen-girl-fronted rock band out of Tennessee.