By Jake Cordiner (@jjjjaketh)
After Laughter is the riskiest album Paramore have ever put out. 2013’s self-titled effort, while great in its own right, felt like the beginning of a metamorphosis for the band. They were gradually becoming a different beast entirely: with songs like Ain’t It Fun and Still Into You, they were starting to shed the “punk” from their “pop-punk” label, opting for an edgier pop vibe, and it worked with those singles being massive successes. However, a large portion of their fanbase was not happy in the fucking slightest with Hayley and co dabbling in the joys of pop, thus causing a divide in the Paramore community: those who were able to handle a band doing what they want, and those who weren’t.
So Paramore were at a major crossroads in their career. Who do they make music for? Themselves or those who were dismissing their new direction? Well, on April 19th of this year, they answered that question indisputably: Paramore are doing it for themselves baybeeeeee! Hard Times is, simply put, around 3 minutes of pure pop bliss. It is the PERFECT opener to After Laughter (their 5th (fucking FIFTH) record). It’s all dancey synth, glittery guitar lines, and tropical drum lines. It sounds like Friendly Fires and CHVRCHES had a one night stand in Ibiza and decided to make a go of it, bless them.
Then comes Rose-Colored Boy. Oh my GOD Rose-Colored Boy. Hayley Williams is sounding better than she ever has, and it’s cracking to see Zac Farro back on the sticks. This song has an absolute topper of a chorus, alongside a lovely bit of gang vocals, being one of the album’s many standouts. Told You So comes next, and it will undoubtedly be a crowd pleaser when the three-piece hit the road later in the year.
As with most songs on the album, there’s a massive juxtaposition between the instrumentals and lyrics on the album on Told You So. Take the opening line for example: “For all I know, the best is over and the worst is yet to come“. Williams‘ lyrics are quite sombre and pessimistic throughout the album’s 12 tracks. The aforementioned juxtaposition works in spades, the (mostly) happy-go-lucky instrumentals allow the less than happy lyrics to stand out excellently.
Though it’s an easy record to gush over, there are one or two songs that don’t quite hit the mark of quality that the majority of the album upholds. Forgiveness, for example, is nothing more than a serviceable wee slow number. Certainly not offensively bad, but definitely one of the weaker tracks on the record. Same with Caught In The Middle, lyrically the song is one of the strongest tracks on the whole LP but musically it’s just a bit middling (if you’ll excuse that fucking shite pun.)
Would it really be a Paramore album without a soppy, but lovely acoustic ballad? 26 is After Laughter‘s answer to that question. And it might be the most beautiful song that Paramore have ever came out with. Hayley sounds gorgeous, as do the strings that pierce through the elegantly soft guitar at the heart of the track. This song really is a wonderful wee number, one that will slot neatly into your Sunday hangover playlist.
So, now comes the most important question about After Laughter: did Hayley, Zac and Taylor make the right decision in not listening to the angsty side of their Parafans? (Note: we’re not sure if they’re called Parafans but as far as Jake is concerned, they are now). In short, they absolutely made the right choice. After Laughter is the sound of a band finally making the kind of music they’ve been threatening to for years now.
And they’re all the better for it.
BEST TRACKS: Hard Times, Pool, 26, Rose-Colored Boy, Grudges
Finding yourself on the opposing side of the Paramore divide, where you see their last release as too polished and devoid of anything that made the band what they are, After Laughter is definitely a step in the right direction. Some songs may shoot themselves in the foot, Hard Times I’m looking at you, but the merging of happy go lucky instrumentals and dark lyrics make it the band’s most ambitious by far.
6/10 – Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)
BEST TRACKS: Told You So, No Friend