Release Date: May 12, 2017
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Pop, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Emo-Pop, Left-Field Pop
Paramore are back with a vengeance, but with a bit more self-awareness. The Tennessee-based band announces that right off the bat on their fifth studio album with opener (and single) "Hard Times," a synth-heavy acknowledgement that the now three-piece led, as ever, by Hayley Williams has been through a lot. And it's something that the 28-year-old singer even states herself on "Rose-Colored Boy" ("I want you to stop insisting that I'm not a lost cause/'Cause I've been through a lot/Really all I've got is just to stay pissed off/If it's all right by you").
Can you accept that change is good? It's good, it's gooood. Let's make one thing clear: Paramore as we know them are dead. What I mean by this is that the head banging, punk-rockers from the mid-2000s simply do not exist anymore. Brand New Eyes was both the culmination and end of that formula, punctuating an extremely successful three album run that in itself could have been considered a great career.
Most reviews of the new Paramore record that have run across this writer's desk seem be under the misapprehension that the band have 'gone pop'. Where those critics have been for the past 12 years is mystifying. They've always been a pop band - they've played dress-up with varying degrees of honesty and success, sure, but they've always been a pop band, and that's by no stretch of the imagination a criticism.
E very Paramore record unloads a fresh heap of inter-band strife - this time, their bassist quit and ex-drummer rejoined. It feels unfair that discontent dominates their narrative (the feminist emo band that made a platinum pop crossover), but it also inspires great catharsis. Throughout, Hayley Williams doesn't sugarcoat her frustrations with false idols, futile optimism or anxiety, while reshuffling has kept Paramore nimble, abandoning rock for Tom Tom Club and Bow Wow Wow's polyrhythmic zest, at its sprightliest on Hard Times and Told You So.
On their fifth release, After Laughter, it's finally happened. Once the cream of the noughties emo crop, the band have fully embraced chart-friendly, power-pop and these tracks are crammed with summery, tropical flourishes, eschewing spiky guitars for glistening synths. Single "Hard Times" sounds as breezy and carefree as an open-top convertible drive under a blue sky and swaying palm trees, complete with a field-filling chorus and a Duran Duran-esque funk lick lifted straight from the 80's.
T hose watching from the periphery may regard Paramore's move into pure pop as a natural extension of the mall punk and emo of formative albums. But for many, the group, who've endured a messy lineup change and subsequent legal disputes since their 2013 album, are in the midst of a rebirth. The grooves they always possessed are brought to the forefront on this peppy, vibrant record, a contrast to its lyrical themes, which cover masking misery ("I'm going to draw my lipstick wider than my mouth"), spiralling depression and the anxiety of ageing, only with a knowing wink.
We know, we know, Paramore isn't just Hayley Williams. Paramore is a band. But when every roiling, addictive album is directly fueled by the discord of yet another lineup change, you start to wonder: Should the hole left by the most recently departing bandmate be considered an official member of the band? It's a thought you can't help but mull over listening to Paramore's crackling fifth full-length album, 2017's After Laughter.
Emo kids' eyeliner will be even smudgier than normal this week, because on their fifth album Tennessee alt.rockers Paramore have finally fully ditched the serrated guitar-driven angst and the baggy trousered alt.awkwardness and taken a swan dive heart-first into a big, sunny swimming pool full of old school pop bangers. Hayley Williams might have heavily hinted at the band's new direction on 2013's power-pop leaning 'Paramore' album, but 'After Laughter' comes over like the earnest, fist-pumping soundtrack to a long-lost John Hughes coming-of-age film. No longer is this a band to file alongside My Chemical Romance but rather the glossy likes of Haim, especially when the sassy handclaps and hairflicks of 'Forgiveness' kick in.
Paramore's giant hooks and soaring vocals have often been accompanied by a withering worldview - their rip-roaring breakthrough single "Misery Business" was a poison-pen letter to a romantic rival, while "Ain't It Fun," the Top Ten single from their 2013 self-titled album, blended the gospel-assisted bounce of "Like a Prayer" with a firm trust-no-one stance. The tension between sugar-spun pop hooks, the acrobatic soprano of lead singer Hayley Williams and an arm's-length take on the world has placed Paramore at the head of music's post-millennial class. They simmer on After Laughter, their first album since that 2013 offering and their reunion with drummer Zac Farro, whose acrimonious departure from the band in 2010 presaged their fuller turn from the rock world into pop.
Hayley Williams knows how to play the part of the jolly conqueror. Even while singing of anger, betrayal, and disappointment on ever-bigger stages and in technicolor videos throughout the last 13 years, the Paramore leader has projected a pro's poise along with a child star's desire to please. Since she was a young teen, Williams has led angsty pop-punk singalongs with the friendly authority of a summer camp counselor.
After Laughter finds Paramore, like Carly Rae Jepsen and M83 before them, delving into the pantheon of ’80s pop and declaring, “There’s gold in them hills. ” Awash in primary colors, After Laughter sheds the harder edge of its predecessor, Paramore, which accented its pop bona fides with chugging guitars and a distinctly rockist energy. Paramore, now five LPs and numerous highly publicized lineup changes into their career, aren’t doing anything fundamentally different than what they achieved on their best records, Paramore and Riot!: The hooks are near-uniformly great, and frontwoman Hayley Williams remains a magnetic lead vocalist, pushing her voice into high notes with the vocal cord equivalent of a punch (see the chorus on “Rose-Colored Boy”).
Paramore are a new band--again. With their fifth line-up change in as many albums, they have lost bassist Jeremy Davis and restored founding drummer Zac Farro to their internal dynamic. The successive shift in sound is, fittingly, a rhythmic one. Guitars, synths, and drums all share the traits of percussion; together they feel like a series of incredulous blinks fluttering across the songs on After Laughter, their first record in four years.