PARAMORE: AFTER LAUGHTER – REVIEW
The ’80s are back in vogue, and with their fifth album After Laughter, Paramore are the latest on the bandwagon, joining the likes of Haim and Carly Rae Jepsen in resurrecting the era’s production-heavy, synth-laced sounds.
They make their intentions clear from the start, with opening track and lead single ‘Hard Times’. It’s the most danceable song the band has ever produced, led by a bouncy marimba-tinged riff, a catchy disco chorus and culminating in a glorious Daft Punk-style vocoder outro. It is bubblegum ’80s pop at its finest.
While no other track quite matches the danceability of ‘Hard Times’, there are plenty which follow its playful pop template, with ‘Rose-Colored Boy’ and ‘Pool’ being the standouts.
But amongst the buoyant beats, there’s an unmistakable cloud of melancholy hanging over the album lyrically, even on the aforementioned upbeat tunes. “Just let me cry a little bit longer/I ain’t gon’ smile if I don’t want to”, sings Hayley Williams on ‘Rose-Colored Boy’.
It appears the ongoing intra-band conflict was weighing heavy on the band’s mind during the album’s writing sessions. ‘Caught in the Middle’ alludes to their decision to carry on despite the departure of bassist Jeremy Davis in 2015 and his subsequent lawsuit against the band. Elsewhere, ‘Grudges’ is an ode to their rekindled friendship with drummer Zac Farro, who rejoined the band following a bitter split in 2010.
All this drama hasn’t dented the new-look trio’s musicianship however, and After Laughter pushes the Paramore sound into unchartered territory. Whilst their 2013 self-titled album heralded the shift away from their punk roots, the sound was still largely based around distorted guitars. Here, guitarist Taylor York ditches that model completely, embellishing the album with a variety of retro guitar tones and spidery riffs amidst a foundation of synthesisers.
One track especially embodies their new experimental streak — the penultimate song ‘No Friend’, featuring barely-discernable spoken vocals by Aaron Weiss of band mewithoutYou. Starting with a simple appegiated guitar riff, it slowly morphs into an atmospheric jam amongst Weiss’ increasingly desperate cries. It’s a bold, slow-burning, intense track — far removed from anything else on the album — which will polarise fans like never before.
It’s a brave move to abandon the sound that made them famous, but Paramore have proved they are willing and able to reinvent themselves. Whilst After Laughter is firmly in the relms of ’80s pop-rock, there’s no telling which direction the band will take next. If the ongoing Paramore soap opera can yield these fruitful results, here’s hoping more drama is on the horizon.