Paramore - After Laughter
On Paramore’s fifth album there is a strong sense of conflict, another line up change see’s the band looking back to the 80’s to progress their sound, this results in Hayley, Taylor and Zac struggling to find their inner punks among all the synths.
I came into this album already expecting a different sound from Paramore, by now you’ve probably heard the lead single ‘Hard Times’ and it’s fair to say the album continues on from there on a pretty similar pop orientated course, anyone who has heard their self titled album released in 2013 will know that the band aren’t strangers to straight up pop (see ‘Ain’t It Fun’ or ‘Still Into You’) but even then the album was full of dark even grungy rock anthems that had that traditional Paramore feel to it, ‘After Laughter’ has pretty much none of this and how much you accept that will shape how much you enjoy this release.
I’ve definitely found myself extremely stuck when reviewing this album, as far as pop album’s go it doesn’t do much wrong, it’s heavily influenced by the sound of the 1980’s as well as their tour mates from last year ‘CHVRCHES’, as far as a punk record, it’s most certainly isn't one and you’ll be disappointed to know that Hayley barley utters even a shout during the albums 48 minute runtime.
‘Rose-Colored Boy’ sounds like it’s come straight from Cyndi Lauper or Blondie’s back catalogue, the way Hayley sings the chorus could have been taken straight from ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’, not to mention that 80’s pop fuelled bass line. ‘Told You So’ gets the mood going slightly heavier but of course it’s nothing too drastic or unsafe and will leave you pleasantly chanting along.
‘Forgiveness’ is a strange mix of dark lyrics with a beat that skips along almost spritely across the song, the backing vocals are strongly familiar of techniques used by Jessie Ware, it gives the song a slightly ghostly feel in it’s choruses, it’s an effective use but feels more of a rip off than a homage to the British singer.
‘Fake Happy’ starts off with a spoken word segment which immediately grates, when those keys burst in however we immediately get a gem of a song, it’s a big switch up and for me is the first successful mix of emotive lyrics and those 80’s synths, it jumps out at you immediately and Hayley truly shines as she finally gets to show off that impressive vocal range.
The album keeps up his skyward trajectory of quality with following track ’26’, a stripped back ballad featuring Hayley and a guitar, it’s the grown up sibling of 2009’s ‘Only Exception’ and is arguably just as effective, I like to think it could be just as iconic, by focusing on Hayley and stripping back all the over the top pop, it allows the song to actually stand out more, not to mention the light orchestration really adds a grandiose feel to the track.
If you think the lyrical content is dark just wait to you get on to the records second half, ‘Pool’ vividly describes drowning, the light feel of the track is a dark contrast but ends up working strangely effectively, following track ‘Grudges’ faces the return of Zac, it tackles the awkward subject of friends turned rivals turned friends once again. ‘time is a bastard’ and ‘we can’t keep holding on to grudges’ and even vocals from Zac really try and sell the theme of reconciliation for a band that rarely gets to encounter it, it’s definitely left me convinced.
‘Caught In The Middle’ is the perfect way to sum up the record, the lyrics speak of an inner conflict of life but could easily represent the band’s career, it’s no secret that Hayley contemplated ending the band following their last record, ‘I don’t need no help, I can sabotage me by myself’ could be hinting at the recent departure of Jeremy Davis and the following fallout, it’s the perfect song to show the juxtaposition of their currently vividly dark lyrics and bright, peppy instrumentals.
The last three tracks feel more like traditional Paramore than anything else on the record, despite the la la la’s of ‘Idle Worship’ you could easily see the song feature on any of their earlier records, it’s a great song, it may not be as in your face as their classic punk but among all the bubblegum pop it’s a refreshing twist, ‘No Friend’ is completely out of place in the record, that’s not to say it’s bad but the emotive poetry would be a lot more striking and effective if you could actually hear it properly.
The album closes out with ‘Tell Me How’, it’s a sombre as the band get on the record, it’s a massive come down on the mood, it’s nice to see the band go out on a more traditional note, for fans of Paramore the lyrics ‘Tell me how to feel about you now’ may end up more ironic and on the nose than the band predicted.
I have no quarrels in recommending ‘After Laughter’, it’s a great pop record if not a bit by the numbers, by being so 80’s inspired it ends up being vanilla at points, It’s annoyingly middle of the ground and you feel the band could have really pushed something great out of this, I like the record but in terms of Paramore it feels too much of a left turn, like I said at the beginning there’s a decent record buried in here but ultimately it will be down to how open minded you go into listening to it which will inevitably end up shaping your verdict.