Paramore (finally) released their 5th studio album, After Laughter, on the 12th May 2017, via Fueled By Ramen. The band announced the record release details last month, alongside a string of UK/European June/July tour dates (later releasing ‘Tour One’ dates in the States, as well as a handful of forthcoming summer festival announcements), as well as their comeback single, ‘Hard Times’. The band went on to release ‘Told You So’ before the record came out. The album was produced by Justin Meldal-Johnsen and the band’s guitarist, Taylor York.
After Laughter is the follow up to 2013’s phenomenal self-titled record. Paramore seemed to be the band’s comeback record, having been knocked back by the uncertainty of losing the Farro brothers in 2010. It was- and still confidently remains- a stunningly eclectic record filled with more styles of music than you can imagine. It had everything from huuuuge bubble-gum pop hits, glorious ukulele interludes, gospel choirs and heartbreak songs that were tender enough to destroy the toughest of hearts. It felt ballsy and empowering. No, it wasn’t anything remotely like All We Know is Falling and, no, we didn’t see the second coming of 2007’s pop-punk anthem ‘Misery Business’, but what we got was something more mature, something that shouldn’t have worked but miraculously did. It wasn’t the record people had been waiting for- it was better. It got a UK number 1 album and won a ‘Best Rock Song’ Grammy (for ‘Ain’t it Fun’.) The band went on to re-release the album in its extended deluxe form, in 2014. The album felt as if Paramore were where they’d longed to be for years. It was optimistic and the outcome was bigger than anyone could’ve expected. It felt like a “we are Paramore” statement.
Everything was going so well. The band were the biggest they’d ever been. They’d toured the world, began stepping up to headliner position at huge, globally recognised festivals (co-headlining Reading and Leeds Festival in 2014 with Queens of the Stone Age is a personal highlight), they’d won a Grammy and were about to embark on their second sold-out Parahoy! trip when in 2017 bassist Jeremy Davis announced his departure from the band. This news shook the fan base and was something no one had seen coming.
A fifth album wasn’t looking likely, yet the band- tangled in a tricky law suit with their departed bassist- decided to continue, as two. They’d signed up ex-drummer, Zac Farro, to play on the album before officially asking him to join the band again, which he accepted, and from it we have After Laughter.
After Laughter opens with lead single ‘Hard Times’, which draws on the trials and tribulations of the last few years. It’s an obvious comeback single, with fans knowing what has happened since the self-titled release. It’s 80s influenced, synthy and pop-fuelled. More importantly, it’s entirely optimistic in tune, yet alarmingly deep and sad in lyric (a sentiment which runs throughout the record).
Then it leads into ‘Rose-Coloured Boy’, a song which has echoes of ‘Fast in My Car’. You can’t help but want to dance to the infectiously groovy upbeat 80s melody, despite the sombre lyrics.
‘Told You So’ is another brilliant track, exemplified by Williams’s (lead singer) stunning vocal. The vocals, of course, still ring true of the albums they’ve released prior to After Laughter.
‘Forgiveness’ feels honest and authentic. It’s something the band have had to do a lot over the years, especially over the last few. It’s slower and showcases Williams’s mature vocals.
‘Fake Happy’ starts off slow and acoustic, before kicking back into the electronic keyboard lead, melodic- funky even- 80s vibe. It has a chorus you can imagine arenas singing back. This is similar with the bubble-gum, cheery ‘Pool’ and ‘Grudges’ (along with its catchy bridge).
’26’ is the most stunning acoustic track. It doesn’t feel like ‘the obligatory slow song’, it feels introspective, whilst feeling hopeful and somewhat optimistic, as if Williams is directly guiding us (in a ‘Hate to See Your Heartbreak’ sort of way).
‘Caught in the Middle’ is a brilliant alt-pop song. It’s chorus is undeniably- albeit rather infuriatingly- catchy, whilst still feeling deeply sombre in lyric. The bridge is also a sight to behold, again, with lyrics you can imagine large crowds singing- ” I don’t need no help. I can sabotage me by myself. Don’t need no one else. I can sabotage me by myself.”
Then there’s ‘Idle Worship’, which feels similar to songs like ‘Anklebiters’. It’s significant within the album. It feels strong and ballsy, as if to get a point across. It feels honest. ‘Idle Worship’ is about the fabricated relationship between fan and singer. It outlines how Williams feels as though she shouldn’t be idolised and hailed as a hero, something which is a main sentiment in ‘No Friend’- the only Paramore track not to feature Hayley Williams as the main singer.
‘Idle Worship’ seamlessly flows into ‘No Friend’, as if its three-and-a-half minute spoken word is an outro to the previous song. The song is performed by Aaron Weiss, from mewithoutYou, and has a spoken word introduction verse before turning poetic and overlaid by drums and guitar. When you listen closely you can hear the echoes of ‘Idle Worship’- “I’d hate to let you down, so I’ll let the waters rise and drown my dull reflection in the naïve expectation in your eye” and “You see a flood-lit form. I see a shirt design. I’m no savior of yours and you’re no friend of mine” – as well as plenty of references to Paramore’s expansive back catalogue- “we’ll do our riot! dance”, “burning their houses down” (Let The Flames Begin), “Another black top town” (Franklin), “God knows no one needs more misguided ghosts” (Looking up and Misguided Ghosts), “that’s what I get when I let ambition win again” (That’s What You Get)- and even a reference to their band name- “another misspelled band” (Paramore derives from the French word, ‘Paramour’, which means secret lover).
The album ends with the slow paced ‘Tell Me How’, which is piano lead. The song is about Williams losing friends- including previous band members- over time, yet it ends optimistically (“I can still believe”). It’s one of my favourite songs on the album.
Overall the album is brilliant. It seems clear and defined in its genre, yet totally different to anything else the band have ever put out. There’s not the variety of Paramore, but whether or not that’s a bad thing I don’t know, however only time will tell if the album can have the sort of legacy the others have had- namely the self-titled. Each album has a unique selling point about it and this one’s is definitely its cool 80s feel. Each of their albums feels more mature and this one seems the most mature yet.
I think fans seem to trust Paramore more now after the self-titled album, in which they covered a multitude of genres and still managed to pull it off. Yes, they’ve lost fans (mainly those who loved the pop-punk fuelled earlier albums, such as All We Know is Falling and Riot!) along the way, but they’ve gained many along the way in reaching a more mainstream audience. They’re the benchmark for every female fronted alternative/pop-punk band ever, whether or not that’s a good or bad thing is up to you to decide for yourself.