Album Review: Paramore - 'After Laughter'

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Paramore have always been one of my personal favourite bands, and one of the biggest influencers that helped to shape the pop/punk scene in the mid-2000’s when this genre of music was at its most popular. I remember listening to “Riot!” and falling in love, not only with the music, but also with front woman Hayley Williams’ voice instantly. Her incredible vocal range and the way that she was easily able to hit those ridiculously high notes while using her words as a weapon in her lyrics was, and still is incredible.

After a number of years, line-up changes in the band and taking a break from music and branching out into other endeavours (Williams is co-owner of hair dye company ‘Good Dye Young’) Paramore have returned with a new sound in their fifth studio album, “After Laughter”. Their new sound is certainly something different and unexpected, but also a sign of the change and growth that Paramore have been through over the years, both as a band and as individuals.

I feel they may have hinted at their new sound and the direction that they were headed in 2013’s self-titled album with songs such as “Ain’t it Fun” and “Still into You”. It’s almost as if they were testing the waters to see how the songs were received.

To the fans that have been there from the beginning and are a little unsure or uneasy about the new direction “After Laughter” takes – give it a chance. You might be pleasantly surprised by how quickly these songs grow on you and get stuck in your head. Personally, I’m really excited to hear this record performed live, as I think they will bring a new and fresh energy to their set.

First single, and album opener “Hard Times” is an indication of what to expect from Paramore’s latest record and more mature sound. This new direction shocked me at first, but after listening a few times and really getting into the lyrics, I fell in love. This is the new Paramore. This song (along with the rest of the album) has a very 80’s feel to it (synthesizers included!), and is catchy as hell. Play this song as loud as you can and just try not to dance to it, I dare you… it’s impossible! It gets me moving every single time I listen. Not only that, but the lyrics are relatable and for someone who has been going through some very hard times in life lately, I found it very therapeutic singing along to the words. “All that I want is to wake up fine. Tell me that I’m alright, that I ain’t gonna die / All that I want is a hole in the ground. You can tell me when it’s alright for me to come out”.

“Rose-Coloured Boy” is the perfect follow up track to “Hard Times”, with a similar upbeat feel, and a very Blondie inspired sound to it. Another song with hard hitting lyrics that people going through a difficult time will be able to relate, and also dance along to: “You say ‘we gotta look on the bright side’. I say ‘well maybe if you wanna go blind’/ You say my eyes are getting too dark now/but boy, you ain’t ever seen my mind”.

Second single “Told You So” with opening lyrics “for all I know the best is over and the worst is yet to come” is about times in Williams’ life when following her heart or her gut would end up leading to heartache. Although not as well received as their first single, this song is still very catchy and holds its own.

“Forgiveness” is a little slower and has a sound that makes you feel like you’re in an 80’s film by John Hughes, with lyrics to match: “There’s still a thread that runs from your body to mine, and you can’t break what you don’t see, an invisible line. If I follow it down would we just be alright?” and “Don’t you go and get it twisted, forgiving is not forgetting”.

“Fake Happy” features a slow intro, with just Williams’ voice projecting through the speakers, and straight into your soul. A song about how you never really know what people are going through, and how it’s become the norm to put on a smile and pretend everything is ok. “I love making you believe what you get is what you see, but I’m so fake happy / and I bet everybody here is just as insincere. We’re all so fake happy”. Standout lyrics such as “and if I go out tonight, dress up my fears, you think I’ll look alright with these mascara tears? See I’m gonna draw my lipstick wider than my mouth and if the lights are low they’ll never see me frown” really stood out on my first listen.

“26”, a beautiful acoustic song re-introduces the good old guitar back into Paramore’s new sound, and paired with Williams’ perfectly soothing voice it’s a masterpiece, with lyrics to match. “Man, you really know how to get someone down. Everything was fine until you came around / hold onto hope if you got it, don’t let it go for nobody”.

All of the songs on this album are amazing and special in their own way, but closing track “Tell me How” is in a league of its own. A beautiful piano ballad that brought me to tears the first time I listened to it. The lyrics in this song are hauntingly beautiful, and carry so much weight. “You keep me up with your silence, take me down with your quiet / of all the weapons you fight with, your silence is the most violent”.

It’s not hard to see that the lyrical content on this record is beyond incredible. Williams has clearly been through some difficult times in her life and has been hurt, but the way she is able to put it into words and create her art through music and share it with the world shows a certain vulnerability and strength and she should be beyond proud. I truly believe in the power of music, and how it can really help you through difficult times and make you feel less alone. How the right songs with just the right lyrics seem to find you right when you really need it most. The songs on “After Laughter” did just that. They are proof that yes, you will go through some really shitty times in your life, but things will get better and you will be ok. Plus the catchiness and upbeat feel of the majority of the record won’t allow you to stay in a bad mood for long. If you’re having a bad day, or a bad week, or feel defeated, go outside, sit in the sun, put your headphones in and let these songs heal your soul. The perfect way to summarise “After Laughter”: ”Cry hard, dance harder” – Hayley Williams 

Written by Amber Eccles


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