Change in life, no matter how hard that may be to accept at times, is an inevitability. As we grow as people, so does almost every aspect of what makes us the person that we are. Music is absolutely no different, and, though a change in a band’s style is likely to come as part of their evolution, a distaste and resentment for such a dichotomy in a band’s career is not only needless, but ultimately redundant. One such band who’ve been subject to feedback from creating said unintentional division is Paramore.
The 00s era of the band, pre-Farro dismissals and all the drama from that fallout, were waving the banner for pop-punk/emo, the Vans Warped Tour, and the MySpace raised generation they were a part of. Seven years have passed since then, and much as we weren’t the same people back in the heyday of ‘Brand New Eyes’, neither are Paramore.
Though their 2013 self-titled effort indicated such a change in direction with the 00s behind them, with ‘Now’ and ‘Ain’t It Fun’ keeping the pop-punk fanbase happy and standing as massive hits for the summer, what the LP lacked was cohesion and direction. Meandering through different ideas and sounds here and there, though far from a bad release, the many ideas ‘Paramore’ tried to execute rarely managed to take off.
Four years later, and with bridges rebuilt bringing ex-drummer Zac Farro back into the frame, it seems the Tennesse troupe have not only managed to bring their focus into something less discordant, but with ‘After Laughter’ it seems that we finally can see in the new era of Paramore with the finesse they assumingly intended but fell short with on its predecessor.
Almost entirely gone is all elements of punk from their pop-punk beginnings, instead injecting heavy influences of new wave, pop-rock, and even at times disco. Opener and lead single ‘Hard Times’ is a quirky dance floor filler, and could easily stand-to-toe with the sharp hooks of ‘Misery Business’ or ‘Still Into You’. ‘Fake Happy’ and its message of anti-fake optimism really kicks in on the chorus whilst keeping you tapping your feet and clicking your fingers through the verse, and, though we don’t see vocalist Hayley Williams belt out to the extent we’ve seen her on older cuts like ‘All I Wanted’ and ‘Let The Flames Begin’, ‘Idle Worship’ definitely sees her lose a bit of restraint in the verses, and it serves the song for the better.
A running theme throughout ‘After Laughter’ certainly sits with the mostly upbeat, vibrant, and warm instrumentation (Taylor York and Farro really pull out all the stops here) and production canvassing what more often than not are lyrics and subjects that emit frustration, friendships, depression, and trying to cope with the pressures and demands of every day life. The title of the record on its own, as Williams herself has confirmed, stems on the end of clear visual happiness. When people are laughing, she highlights that “this look that comes across their face when they’re done smiling” before continuing to muse that she’ll “always find it really fascinating to wonder what it is that brought them back to reality.”
’26’ is a bare bones gem, ‘Pool’ is one of the strongest tracks on the entire record and, though non-track ‘No Friend’ admittedly would serve both itself and the album as a whole much better by not being included on it (Aaron Weiss of mewithoutYou‘s inclusion sadly seems pointless), ‘After Laughter’ stands as another jewel in the Paramore crown. Gone are their pop-punk years of yore, and with it we gladly welcome in their part 80s/part 90s funk influenced pop-rock of today. Instead of putting down a few chips here and there to try and please everyone, the band have instead aimed to please themselves and gone all in with this next stage of their evolution, and they sound all the more impressive for it.
Written by Zach Redrup (@zachredrup)