Paramore have returned this month with their fifth studio album, After Laughter. They came back to us with a new sound, reunited band members and waved goodbye to their emo roots. And it’s the best possible move the band could have made.
After Laughter brings forward the playground that Paramore have been experimenting in. Packed with vibrant 80s style pop, new wave guitar riffs and it’s synth-heavy style, it’s a lot closer to the works of Haim and 1975, than Fall Out Boy or My Chemical Romance. Following on from their self-titled album, Paramore, it feels like the natural direction for the band to take. With Hayley Williams powerful vocals, Taylor Yorks new wave guitar riffs and the return of drummer Zac Farro, it was always going to be difficult for the band to go wrong.
But despite the bright, sunshine pop vibe the album gives off, the lyrics themselves are much darker and yet more mature and self-aware than any of Paramore’s previous albums. Their songs have hardly been especially optimistic over the years, but this time Williams emotions surrounding the hardships she’s faced, really hit home. She explains that she’s tired of smiling and pretending everything is okay and makes it clear that this time she’s doing things her way.
Hard Times, Rose Coloured Boy, Fake Happy and Pool are by far the truly captivating tracks from the album. Despite them containing all the key elements that can make them your perfect summer anthems, they’re still incredibly dark and powerful.
Fake Happy for example, is a heartbreaking track, with Williams explaining that ‘I hate phoniness. It’s not fun to be around; it’s not fun to do yourself. But then there are these moments in your life where you’re professional, and you have to have grace with yourself, have to grace with other people and work hard, but it’s that self-preservation thing.’ It begins with a misleading acoustic intro before it’s showered with colourful synth tones. With lyrics such as ‘You think I’ll look alright with these mascara tears? See I’m gonna draw my lipstick wider than my mouth, And if the lights are low they’ll never see me frown.’ coupled with its warm backing vocals makes such a delightful track.
Pool also breaks away from William’s traditional love songs such as Only Exception and Still Into You as it covers the darker elements of relationships. York puts it perfectly as he states ‘I think there are so many love songs that say, “Hey man, everything’s perfect and everything about you is awesome and this is all great.” But Hayley always writes for the people who can’t relate to that. Saying like, “Man, I love this person but I am dark and this feels dark.” I always love that because that is real.’
Grudges suggested making peace with their now current member, Zac Farro with Williams confirming this as she states ‘Grudges needed to happen so bad. I wanted to write about Zac, I just knew it. Somehow that didn’t paralyse me, it just happened. I sat up all day singing to myself. But I knew I wanted it to be about the band. I knew how good Zac’s voice would sound on it because his voice is brilliant.’
The slower anthems on the album include 26 and Tell Me How cover the most heart-wrenching messages of the album. Despite 26’s dark subject matter, it’s possibly the most optimistic of all the songs on the album as it discusses talking to yourself in a loving way and holding onto what light you do have, “hold onto hope if you got it, don’t let it go for nobody”. As William’s declares ‘I’ve been chasing after dreamers in the clouds, After all, wasn’t I the one who said, To keep your feet on the ground.’ it offers a nod to their past track, Brick by Boring Brick‘s line ‘Keep your feet on the ground, When your heads in the clouds.’
The tender ballad matches Tell Me How’s painful lyrics ‘Tell me how to feel about you now, Oh, let me know, Do I suffocate or let go?’ This raw emotion can be found in their earlier tracks including The Only Exception and Hate To See Your Heartbreak. Williams described this track, ‘I had a lot of feelings about just losing people. When you die, does it matter who’s fault something was? Everything did feel like life or death while we were writing this record.’
Caught in the Middle manages to transform the songs depressing lyrics into a mass sing along as William’s repeats ‘No, I don’t need no help, I can sabotage me by myself’ in the song’s bridge. Being the first song that the band recorded on the album, it certainly seemed to set the tone for the upcoming tracks.
Perhaps the strangest track on not just this album but of all of Paramore’s records is No Friend, being almost unrecognisable from any of their other tracks, with the song using Aaron Weiss from MewithoutYou spoken word instead of William’s powerful voice. While it seems to break the flow of the album, sometimes making it a frustrating listen, it’s a great stand-alone track that makes a refreshing listen when compared to any other Paramore songs.
While the majority of the album plays to the strengths of a genre that Paramore aren’t used to, tracks such as Told You So, Forgiveness and Idle Worship seem to fall short. The tracks aren’t as catchy and the lyrics don’t seem to pull the same heart strings that the rest of the album does. However the stunning visuals in their music video, Told You So almost make up for the slightly disappointing track.
It appears that Paramore have finally embraced the change that was quite frankly, inevitable and while it’s not their best album, it’s nowhere close to being the awful record that older fans are claiming it to be. Perhaps it’s a symbol that some of us have to grow up some time and accept that the old emo Paramore is long gone. But the rebirth of the band is as incredible as it ever could have been.