Paramore, After Laughter | Album Review
Among the many surprises of 2017 is the return of Paramore. Back in the 00s, Paramore was kind of a big deal. After the band saw a lineup change with the exit of the Farro brothers, Hayley Williams and company dropped their self-titled album. That project gave listeners the brilliant, Grammy-winning performance, “Ain’t It Fun.” Now it’s 2017, one Farro bro is back, another member exits, and the band returns with a new album, After Laughter. Thankfully, line-up shifts and drama haven’t derailed the band.
Surprising promo single and opener “Hard Times” provided the first hint that After Laughter served as a departure for Paramore. From the jump, the sound is based in 80s cues. Ultimately, it’s successful, keeping the band fresh and relevant. The lyrics reflect the theme: overcoming hard times and moving beyond them.
“Hard times / Gonna make you wonder why you even try / Hard times / Gonna take you down and laugh when you cry…”
Another stellar moment comes during the repetitive, yet highly effective bridge, where Hayley Williams is coming down, and rebuilding harmonious relationships with those closest to her. All in all, Hayley and company nail it.
“Low-key, no pressure, just hang with me and my weather.” “Rose-Colored Boy” keeps the 80s-vibe going strong without a hitch. The production is slick – maybe even a smidge too slick! Vocally, Williams continues to shine, particularly on the high-flying chorus:
“Just let me cry a little bit longer / I ain’t gon’ smile if I don’t want to / Hey man, we all can’t be like you / I wish we were all rose-colored too / My rose-colored boy.”
Clearly, Williams has had her ups and downs, and she essentially states, not everyone is always in a good mood or place.
“Told You So”
“Told You So,” another stellar joint, continues to embark on the change of pace from the band. It’s not quite as accomplished as the gem “Hard Times,” but it’s pretty darn close. “Told You So” yields more production characterized by its finesse. No longer is Paramore going for an edgy, rawer sound, but instead, they’ve settled into a glitzy sound. Lyrically, it isn’t particularly complex, but the simplicity works soundly. It’s no poetic masterpiece, but definitely successful.
On “Forgiveness,” Williams hasn’t quite embraced the spirit of forgiveness.
“Cause your voice is a gun / Every word is a bullet hole / Shot a hole in the sun / If I never look up maybe I’ll never notice.”
She goes on to admit she can’t accept his apologies…yet. Compared to the tracks preceding it, “Forgiveness” is cooler, with a smaller bag of production tricks.
“Fake Happy” provides some unpredictability with a slow, acoustic-based intro. Following the faux happiness, “Fake Happy” kicks into full force with it pronounced bass line, synths, electric guitar, and hella groovy, punchy drums. Williams’ vocals remain clear, uninhibited by the production, particularly on the irresistible refrain:
“Oh please, don’t ask me how I’ve been / Don’t make me pretend / Oh no, oh what’s the use / Oh please, I bet everybody here is fake happy too.”
Age songs are all the rage, exemplified by “26.” Ultimately, “26” is beautiful, if less intriguing than the opening quintet. Regardless, the message is on-point, as Williams uplifts herself and reflects back on the past. “Pool” is a return to form – contextually speaking. Lyrically, “Pool” uses water to fuel the fire – or fill the pool. This is all about the feels, much like After Laughter proves to be as a whole:
“I’m underwater / No air in my lungs / My eyes are open / You are the wave / I could never tame / If I survive / I’ll dive back in.”
“Grudges” kicks off energetically – exuberant from the jump. With a quick tempo and major key, “Grudges” doesn’t sound the least bit tense. Why? Because this is about breaking free from grudges as opposed to relaying them. This represents Paramore moving forward and questioning why was time wasted on this? Once again, superb messaging, applicable to all.
“Caught in the Middle” is about finding balance between the past and the future. Williams is afraid of getting old, yet she doesn’t want to relive the past either, like due to her depression. Emotionally, while she sounds like she owns her current status, it’s clear despite the good vibes that she’s still recovering her past self…or something along those lines.
“Idle Worship” clearly plays on words – shocker. Essentially, Williams doesn’t proclaim herself to be a role model – “I’m not your superhuman.” Another respectable showing. “No Friend” is plain odd. This is more soundscape than vocal track, despite the fact that there are vocals. Honestly, while listening to After Laughter, this is the one track that failed to distinguish itself without a second listen. “Tell Me How” concludes with more normalcy, though it’s a bit tame compared to the majority of the album. Still, it covers emotions, and Paramore and Hayley Williams are all about those emotions.
So, how does After Laughter stack up? Paramore have a hit on their hands ladies and gentlemen. As a more casual fan of the band, this album is impressive. It’s not without a flaw here or there – namely “No Friend” – but all in all, this is A-OK. Vocally, Hayley Williams is in her zone – autopilot baby!
Gems: “Hard Times,” “Told You So,” “Forgiveness,” “Fake Happy” & “Grudges”