Paramore are one of the bands I listened to a lot towards the end of my time at secondary school, a pretty classic case of teenage love for alternative acts that has stayed with me to this day.
The band were always about frontwoman Hayley Williams, whose powerful vocals were instantly identifiable and lent a strength to what were already songs that hit hard. But in the background there was the excellent Farro brothers, one on guitar and one on the drums, that helped make Paramore’s sound unlike that of any other band out there. Together, these three drove the band to massive success with albums like Riot, All We Know is Falling and Brand New Eyes.
“After Laughter” is the follow-up to 2012’s self-titled album, recorded after a split in the band where the founding members the Farro brothers left. This album wasn’t great, being pretty experimental and relying almost solely on Williams’ start power to get through an acoustic heavy album.
But last year Zac Farro returned to the fold, bringing with him some new experiences of working in other bands on more electronic-style music. With
This is a good album, but it’s rather mixed in its’ quality. The first half of the album is packed with excellent songs, and really gives Paramore a new edge whilst maintaining their old sound in parts. The last half though drags on, with many songs that are a little experimental, and too reminiscent of the rather weak self-titled album of a few years ago.
The return of Zac Farro seems to have made a real difference in the way the band plays, with the drum sound that he brings giving a beat through the whole album and lending a familiar feel to what are some rather new-sounding Paramore songs. There’s a distinct shift towards pop music here, with a lot of it being infused with homages to 80s bands like Talking Heads and Tears for Fears.
The best song on the album takes these new influences and runs with them superbly, and that’s the opener “Hard Times”. From the get-go it’s got the , but it’s almost a perfect Talking Heads remake with zany outbursts here and there and chanted lyrics in the chorus. It’s a beautiful song and one that you can listen to over and over without getting tired of it.
The feeling throughout the album is that of a general unhappiness, and dealing with how to overcome all of that. It’s generally really upbeat, and songs like “Told You So” and “Grudges” both do a brilliant job of tying together this narrative with some fun songs. This reminds me a lot of CHVRCHES’ first album “Bones”, which while very dark on the whole had some exceptionally upbeat tracks that belie what the song is actually saying.
There’s also a throwback to the last album towards the middle, with “Fake Happy” and “26” both having acoustic elements to them, which work great at highlighting Williams’ voice – but not so great at making fantastic songs. “Fake Happy” at least does bring things to a more “traditional” Paramore feel as the song goes on – and is actually one of the better tunes on the album when it gets going, with a solid message and a well-delivered build up through the song.
But in the last few tracks of the album, things go a little off the rails. “Idle Worship” doesn’t really put Williams’ vocals to good use, and “No Friend” ignores her completely – with some rambling stream of consciousness over a repetitive guitar loop. These songs are out-there, perhaps in the style of 80s album songs actually, but I don’t think they really deserved to make the final cut of the album.
All things considered, “After Laughter” is a very welcome return to form for Paramore – adding some quality songs to their catalogue and a new, more playful, style of music to listen to. It’s just a shame that there isn’t a little more consistency that could have elevated this album to the levels of their heyday.