Paramore – After Laughter (2017)
Hayley Williams is a superstar.
The Paramore frontwoman has dabbled in pop music previously, most notably Zedd’s Stay The Night and B.o.B’s Airplanes, but it was Paramore’s self titled fourth album from 2013 that really showcased Williams’s skills at belting out huge hooks and memorable chorus’s, making that album the definitive power-pop-rock album of the 21st century, so far. After that self titled album was released, the band toured for effectively 2 years promoting it. And once the touring was done, Williams decided a break from the band was needed. Several reasons seemed to perpetuate that decision, most relevant being her struggle with depression. That depression possibly being triggered by band members leaving and the dawning realisation that adulthood is arduous and life can be laborious. Both Williams and Paramore co-songwriter Taylor York wanted to quit the band. It was potentially game over. But somehow, subconsciously, both members wanted to keep the band going. York was apparently crucial with the creative flow, working in the background before Williams joined the creative process. Zac Farro, who left the band after third album Brand New Eyes in 2009, returned on drums.
What has resulted is 2017’s After Laughter – an album of two massively significant dichotomies. The first being incredibly pop friendly songwriting that doesn’t shy away from the fact that Paramore are no longer a riff-laden rock band per se. The second being the underlying theme and tone conveyed through Hayley Williams’s vocals and lyrics. Opening song “Hard Times” really demonstrates this opposites attract philosophy on After Laughter – an uptempo track, with energetic drums and quirky guitar lines, yet with dark lyrics that really hide nothing; Williams sings ‘All that I want Is to wake up fine Tell me that I’m alright That I ain’t gonna die’. It’s a bare all song that’s brave and honest from Williams’s perspective. This theme of honesty and bravery continues through After Laughter in various forms; the vocal performance, the musical performance, the songwriting overall. The songs are fantastic. The melodies are endless and the rhythms will get you off your couch.
Ditching the emo-rock sound in favour of a modernised 80’s tinged new wave groove that has more in common with the likes of Talking Heads or Dire Straits even, than My Chemical Romance – After Laughter has catchy tune after catchy tune. But far from being bombarded with saccharine soaked mindless songs, the material here is full of depth and character, ensuring fans of the band before will remain along for the journey, and possibly attracting a whole new set of fans too. Picking out highlights on the album is tricky, there is literally no filler at all. The first five songs come at you fast and hard before a slight respite in the form of the beautiful, acoustic led, sombre affair, “26”. Later in the album, “Caught In The Middle” impresses with a soaring and punchy chorus. Similarly, the pop-friendly chorus of “Idle Worship” is impossible to get out of your head.
After a turbulent period of self-doubt, self discovery and finally, reinvention, Paramore have returned with a resoundingly successful album in the form of After Laughter. Impressive songwriting, a stunning vocal performance from Hayley Williams and songs that will resonate not only with Paramore’s fan base but further afield too, After Laughter is recommended listening for those in search of the glory days of 80’s pop-rock in 2017 or just simply fun music.
For fear of alienating all my industrial readers, fret not! There is a mild NIN connection with this album; it was produced by Justin Meldal-Johnsen, who played live bass for NIN. Also, current NIN live drummer Ilan Rubin actually played drums on the 2013 self titled Paramore release!
After Laughter is available everywhere now.