The past few years has been a rollercoaster for Paramore; founding members leaving, in some cases acrimoniously, successful festival headlining outings, only for Hayley Williams to question the band’s existence in the intervening years between the end of their self-titled run and ‘After Laughter’. Nevertheless, on the surface, Williams, Taylor York and a returning Zac Farro have come out at the other end on top.
As you’re probably aware by now, Paramore’s fifth full-length outing sees them firmly embracing their pop sensibilities. For the most part, it is a vibrant collection of 80s-infused pop yet lyrically carries itself with self-doubt and a confessional tone.
Lead off single, ‘Hard Times’ sets the tone early on as colourful instrumentation is contrasted by Williams’ lyrics of feeling hopeless yet has a hint of defiance, as she wants to hit rock bottom and rebound. It’s this self-doubt that adds a dark cloud of realism to the band’s breezy, upbeat sound. Themes such as dealing with depression (‘Rose-Colored Boy’), refusing to let go of dreams (’26’), putting on a false pretence (‘Fake Happy’) and broken friendships (‘Forgiveness’) simply add to the direct narrative Williams provides.
Musically, ‘Rose Coloured Boy’ and ‘Told You So’ join ‘Hard Times’ as early highlights with the latter being carried by bright, jangly guitars. While the poignant pairing of 26’ and ‘Tell Me How’ tug at the heart strings as soft instrumentation allows Williams’ impassioned vocals to be made the centre of attention. Undoubtedly, the pairing of Williams’ confessional songwriting and her raw vocal delivery is a standout trait of ‘After Laughter’.
Nevertheless, the album suffers from a mid-point lull with ‘Pool’, ‘Caught In The Middle’ and surefire single ‘Idle Worship’ keep things ticking along almost ineffectively.
‘After Laughter’ marks a new, brave chapter in the career of Paramore. Their transition, like it or not, to becoming a full on pop band has been done with sparkling results. Yet for all its shiny hooks and colourful instrumentation, underneath there is still a band who carry a message of defiance.
‘After Laughter’ by Paramore is out now on Fueled By Ramen.
Words by Sêan Reid (@SeanReid86)