With the lead single of Paramore’s fifth LP revealed less than a month before the album’s release, there has been arguably little in the way of After Laughter’s promotion compared to other albums. Perhaps this calmer approach is mirrored in the album’s title, which suggests a more honest, emotive and potentially vulnerable piece in contrast to the angsty and powerful signature Paramore fans know and love.
After Laughter makes for interesting listening for a variety of factors. Departing (and returning) band members, confessions from vocalist Hayley Williams about temptations to leave and shake-ups in sound from the group’s earlier pop punk days, it certainly makes its listeners sit up and pay attention. Opening number ‘Hard Times’ doubles as the first glimpse listeners had of Paramore’s new material, yet the bubblegum pop hooks and neon-tinged music video parallel any sign of vulnerability laced in the lyrics. A song which launches the album straight back to the 1980s, track one is a surprisingly upbeat song given its theme, which maybe hints at the struggles in the four years since the band’s eponymous previous release. Colours and appearances seem to be significant as track two opens. ‘Rose-Colored Boy’, with its equally sleek instrumentals, electro notes and repetition of “just let me cry, a little bit longer” is another emotionally-charged piece from the Tennessee trio.
The bubblegum pop hooks and neon-tinged music video parallel any sign of vulnerability laced in the lyrics
Second single ‘Told You So’ is up next, and though only three tracks in, the album is solidified as a cohesive piece, with each individual note packing its own punch, whether it be rhythmic percussion or the overarching shiny 80s indie pop oeuvre Paramore’s music has blossomed into. Sticking to the tone is subsequent ‘Forgiveness’, which teases the listener with a growing synth chord before progressing into funk-infused bass notes; potentially one of the simplest yet catchiest numbers on After Laughter, which could be mistaken for something from Haim.
‘Fake Happy’ and ‘26’ follow the emotionally-charged tracks from the start of the album, with the first of the two boasting the album’s most explosive chorus yet, contrary to ‘26’ which echoes previous acoustic pieces from the group such as Brand New Eyes’ ‘Misguided Ghosts’. Speaking to Beats 1’s Zane Lowe in a band interview, Williams talked of the idea of conversing with her younger self and not losing hope in this number. ‘Pool’ picks up the foot-tapping pace again and is a song of love told through dark metaphors despite the lightness of the instrumentals underneath.
Additionally, in the Zane Lowe interview, guitarist Taylor York divulged how he’d solely listened to Tame Impala in the early days of After Laughter, perhaps most evident on following track ‘Grudges’, with its psychedelic melody woven throughout and repetition of “could it be that I’ve changed?”. Critics have likened subsequent ‘Caught In the Middle’ to Blondie, a notable influence of Williams, and the snappy guitar riffs pay homage to the group.
Far from their decade-old ‘Misery Business’ days
‘Idle Worship’ and ‘No Friend’ almost blend into one on first listen, with ‘Idle Worship’ reminding listeners of the strength of Hayley Williams’s vocals and prove the album’s worth as one of the best pop albums of this Spring/Summer. ‘No Friend’ features almost inaudible vocals and could be mistaken for the album’s outro, and yet encore ‘Tell Me How’ ends the album on a powerfully subdued note of how to feel about a former romance over a piano backdrop.
Four years after their previous release, Paramore have returned with a more mature album and unguarded emotions, and though far from their decade-old ‘Misery Business’ days, this record shows previously pop-punk Paramore remain very much significant in 2017.