They sure made us wait for this one, didn’t they? After what seems like an age, one of pop punk’s pioneering bands, Paramore, have returned with After Laughter, an album we never expected to come from the same angst-ridden teens who penned ‘Misery Business‘- but who says that’s a bad thing?
It’s an album that, with its baby pink cover art, people have compared more to the likes of Katy Perry than the punk roots from which Paramore sprouted. And hey, they might be right. But that doesn’t mean After Laughter isn’t the same Paramore we’ve always known and loved. Almost every track is tinged with melancholy, isolation, depression and defeat and, while it might all be wrapped up in bubblegum synth pop with a pretty pink bow on top, underneath it all, it is lyrically the darkest album Paramore have ever unleashed. Throw on top of that Hayley Williams‘ distinct, endearing vocals and a pinch of light pop rock and, really, you’ve got all the makings of a classic Paramore album. Think of After Laughter as merely the band getting a new haircut; they’re still Paramore, they’ve just altered the appearance a little.
‘Hard Times‘, the album’s opening track and lead single, immediately introduces us to Paramore’s new direction. The infectious ’80s synth, a staple throughout the record, all starts here, with the track’s delightful pop bursts and maddeningly catchy chorus masking its story of struggle. ‘Told You So‘ follows a similar vein, with Hayley singing about what sounds like some pretty dire characters to a pleasantly nostalgic electro-synth melody, while ‘Grudges‘, despite looking back on what we can only assume are some pretty bitter arguments in the band’s past, could be one of Blondie’s more deliciously poppy songs from decades’ past. The band have done an exceptional job of touching on some seriously sour notes without being dreary for even a second; they keep things light, upbeat but, most importantly, honest.
There are softer moments, times where the record’s harsh buzz is laid to rest in favour of a more hazy, subtle tone. One such moment is ‘Fake Happy’ which, although still incredibly light on its feet, definitely expands on the feel of the album, opening layers of pop-rock depth and delving further into the vocalist’s psyche than ever before. The personal lullabies ‘Forgiveness’ and ’26’ are excellent examples of the gentle, swaying ballads Paramore have always been able to churn out with each release, making After Laughter no different.
It’s caused quite a stir with some fans, but After Laughter is really just a fresh coat of paint on the same rip-roaring, up-front, power-pop bunch that Paramore have always been. It’s refreshing, candid and fun. For that, we applaud them.
After Laughter by Paramore is out now via Fueled By Ramen.