Paramore returns with an ambitious, energetic fifth studio album, ‘After Laughter.’
Among the many surprises of 2017 is the return of Paramore. Back in the 00s, Paramore were kind of a big deal. After the band saw a lineup change with the exit of the Farro brothers, Hayley Williams and company dropped their self-titled album. That project gave listeners the brilliant, Grammy-winning performance, “Ain’t It Fun.” Now it’s 2017, one Farro bro is back, another member exits, and the band returns with a new album, After Laughter. Thankfully, line-up shifts and drama haven’t derailed the band.
Surprising promo single and opener “Hard Times” provided the first hint that After Laughter served as a departure for Paramore. From the jump, the sound is based in 80s cues. Ultimately, it’s successful, keeping the band fresh and relevant. The lyrics reflect the theme: overcoming hard times and moving beyond them.
“Rose-Colored Boy” keeps the 80s-vibe going strong without a hitch. Vocally, Williams continues to shine, particularly on the high-flying chorus. Essentially, she’s had her ups and downs –not everyone is always in a good mood or place.
“Told You So”
“Told You So,” another stellar joint, continues to embark on the change of pace from the band. It yields more production work characterized by its finesse. No longer is Paramore going for an edgy, rawer sound, but instead, they’ve settled into a glitzy sound. Lyrically, it isn’t particularly complex, but the simplicity works soundly. It’s no poetic masterpiece, but definitely successful.
On “Forgiveness,” Williams hasn’t quite embraced the spirit of forgiveness. She goes on to admit she can’t accept his apologies…yet. Compared to the tracks preceding it, “Forgiveness” is cooler, with a smaller bag of production tricks.
“Fake Happy” provides some unpredictability with a slow, acoustic-based intro. Following the faux happiness, “Fake Happy” kicks into full force with it pronounced bass line, synths, electric guitar, and hella groovy, punchy drums. Williams’ vocals remain clear, uninhibited by the production, particularly the irresistible refrain. “26” is beautiful, if less intriguing than the opening quintet. Regardless, the message is on-point, as Williams uplifts herself and reflects on the past. “Pool” is a return to form – contextually speaking. Lyrically, “Pool” references water metaphorically throughout its course.
Messaging continues to play a role throughout After Laughter. “Grudges” doesn’t sound the least bit tense – it’s because it’s about breaking free from grudges as opposed to relaying them. “Caught in the Middle” is about finding balance between the past and the future. “Idle Worship” features fantastic wordplay. Williams doesn’t proclaim herself to be a role model in the least, singing, “I’m not your superhuman.” “No Friend” is the oddity of the album, made worse by the fact that it is the penultimate track. plain odd. “Tell Me How” concludes with more normalcy, though it’s a bit tame compared to the majority of the album
So, how does After Laughter stack up? Paramore have a hit on their hands ladies and gentlemen. As a more casual fan of the band, this album is impressive. It’s not without a flaw here or there – namely “No Friend” – but all in all, this is A-OK. Vocally, Hayley Williams is in her zone – autopilot baby!
Gems: “Hard Times,” “Told You So,” “Forgiveness,” “Fake Happy” & “Grudges”