Every time a well-established band comes out with a new record, a wave of fans come out of their dark corridors and proclaim that the band have lost their way — that they don’t sound like their “old selves.” For Paramore, it’s difficult to sound like their old selves. In 2010, the band parted ways with brothers Josh and Zac Farro (the latter has since returned for the band’s newest album), which left the band without a permanent guitarist and drummer. And at the end of 2015, bassist Jeremy Davis left the band claiming he was due for royalties and songwriting credits from the band’s 2013 self-titled effort.
After a certain point, the departures become too grueling for the remaining members to embrace and move on with. In this case, “After Laughter,” the fifth studio album from Paramore, finds lead vocalist Hayley Williams and guitarist Taylor York fending for themselves through all the heartbreak and depression they’ve encountered amidst dying friendships in their ever-changing lives. Following so many changes throughout the years that paved the way for the band’s evolution, it becomes strenuous for them to stay a dominant force in the pop-punk scene like they once were. It’s for this reason that “After Laughter” is the band’s most mature album to date, both lyrically and sonically.
“All that I want is to wake up fine / To tell me that I’m alright, that I ain’t gonna die” belts Williams on the xylophone-heavy opener and lead single, “Hard Times.” It’s in the first line listeners are treated to the perfect summarization of the album. Through all the hardships she has endured within the band, Williams wishes to find peace and to know that no matter how much it’s killing her, everything will be alright in the end. This sentiment is echoed all throughout the 12-track record, and while the album’s instrumentals offer plenty of infectiously upbeat grooves, the album has an emotional impact hidden underneath.
The reinvention of the band’s sound stands out on songs such as “Rose-Colored Boy,” a track infused with ‘80s new wave and dance pop akin to Cyndi Lauper’s 1983 classic, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” Elsewhere, the band is heavily reliant on keyboards for the first time with tracks like “Grudges,” a song about rekindling friendships, and “Fake Happy,” which verbalizes the feeling of being unhappy through deceitful smiles, a song consumed with distinctive, bright synths.
The sound is a stark contrast for fans who just want to hear the angsty Williams shunning girls from stealing her significant other — as was the case with their 2007 megahit “Misery Business” — against the rapid-fire backdrop of emo pop-punk. But the course of ten years changes a person, let alone a band. Nowhere is that better displayed than in the closing track, “Tell Me How.” As a piano ballad, the song condenses her reflections on past members leaving the band and ends the album optimistically, stating that she believes she can make amends with the past members. It’s a heartbreaking tune that finds the Fueled by Ramen band at the most mature phase in their career. Williams and York perfectly encapsulate the feeling of hopelessness, yet, hold on to an ever-dwindling sense of hope.
Verdict: With their latest album, Paramore becomes the 30-something year-old adult whose losses have made them a better and stronger person — a stark contrast to the freshman college student the band resembled with 2009’s “Brand New Eyes.” “After Laughter” is the band’s most emotionally and instrumentally complex album to date which makes for a strong addition to their repertoire.
Best Tracks: “Hard Times,” “Idle Worship,” “Fake Happy,” “Tell Me How”