Paramore have been on this ride for a while now. It was eleven years ago that they dropped their debut album “All We Know Is Falling” and the world fell in love with Hayley Williams and the Farro Brothers. Since then, much has changed. With a handful of lineup changes along the way, long gone is the pop-punk fire of a decade ago and over time they’ve continued to develop a less alternative sound. Flash forward to 2017 and they continue this trend with album number 5, “After Laughter”.
Hayley Williams is Paramore in 2017, there can be little doubt. Through all the line-up changes and high-profile internal spats, she stands at the helm of a project which is clearly hers, but it’s taken its toll. Lyrically, “After Laughter” is a darker, sadder album than we could have ever expected from a band which, despite many other changes, has remained consistently jubilant, or at least hopeful. The upside of this new direction is that it allows for some incredibly honest lyrics that will continue to resonate with hardcore fans and new listeners alike.
Despite the heavy lyrics, truth be told “After Laughter” is a cheery throwback to classic 80s pop-rock. A mixture of clean guitar riffs, bass guitar hooks and an abundance of synthesizers. If the mission objective was to make a fun, catchy pop album, then mission accomplished, most this album does just that.
Lead single and album opener “Hard Times” is a stand-out track and will give you a bit of an idea of what to expect. Hayley’s vocals are still incredible and out front on a bouncy track about dealing with rough times, delivered with absolute joy. From here on the album cruises through a collection of tracks with much the same happy/sad contrast, and that’s absolutely the story she’s trying to tell. “Fake Happy” is one of the clearest examples of this. As the title implies it is all about maintaining that façade, a perfect smile through gritted teeth in the form of a keyboard driven pop song.
As the dimly lit dance party rolls on we get our regulation Paramore ballad in “26” and some more pop hits that radio stations will have on heavy rotation. Strangely, everything takes a dark turn on the second to last track. “No Friend” is unlike any Paramore song that precedes it. The track finds Aaron Weiss (MeWithoutYou) ranting over a simplistic, repetitive beat that is just loud enough to ensure you can’t quite make out every word. Upon inspection, it is an obviously therapeutic moment for Hayley, the person who has been “Hayley From Paramore” for twelve years, and experienced all the ups and downs of that life.
Overall “After Laughter” is another new chapter for Paramore. It’s still Hayley delivering her real, honest truths with a smile. The rock riffs have been replaced with pop beats and if you’re hoping for a return to the riot act, you won’t find it here. This album is Paramore in 2017, it’s honest and unapologetic and at the same time it’s super fun. Paramore are still really, really fun to listen to.
Keep an eye on their twitter @paramore for tour dates, which I’m sure will be announced soon.