‘All that I want is to wake up fine.’ Paramore’s realistic yet simple opening line sets up the new incoming sound from their recent album After Laughter. After four years of changes in line-up, including a legal dispute with former bassist, Jeremy Davis, and a comeback from original drummer Zac Farro, it seems Paramore is walking onto a grander stage in their career. The band has the potential to conquer the music scene with its rock attitude, dominant vocals, and memorable song hooks, but can they do it with an 80’s new wave sound?
The opening track Hard Times make it seem that they can. It begins with the bongos and marimbas sounds before the drums and guitars. Although Paramore presents a different style, bringing catchy danceable riffs, and a synth-pop sound, its old emo lyrics are still evident: ‘all that I want is a hole in the ground, you can tell me when it’s alright, for me to come out’. Rose-Colored Boy, with cheer-leading-like sounds in the intro after the first chorus and finishing the song chanting, ‘low-key, no pressure, just hang with me and my weather’, the kind of thing seen from Avril Lavigne’s track The Best Damn Thing.
Hard Times is a catchy, fun, and well-produced synth-pop track, best defined as a summer jam you want to listen and sing along to in the car. Told You So is a bass driven song, softened with a marimba sound during the chorus, presenting minimalist lyrics, ‘I hate to say I told you so, but they love to say they told me so’. The track Forgiveness follows up as a well written and dreamy soft rock ballad that evokes sincerity as William refuses to forgive and forget.
Fake Happy starts slowly, with a light acoustic guitar, resembling a lullaby, before the piano keys begin to chime. The piano forms a bridge to link the slow intro to the first verse, then the drums and guitar riffs break in, building up the song towards the chorus. Hayley advantageously then puts her vocal potential to use, no doubt one of the peak moments in After Laughter.
26 is also another peak moment in the album. The string-laden track with the lingering violins in the background resembles Paramore’s song, Hate to see your break, and lyrically references Brick by Boring Brick, as Hayley hymns ‘wasn’t I the one who said to keep your feet on the ground?’, when previously she sang ‘Keep your feet on the ground’.
The track, Pool, is flawlessly described by Rolling Stones to have a counter-melody that recalls a “Doppler-ed ice-cream truck’s chime.” As for Grudges you can hear the upbeat major key tune being energetic and about forgetting grudges to move on. Caught in the Middle is a glossy, skater-influenced, addictive track, one to play all summer long.
Idle –Worship is one of the strangest songs on any Paramore album, competing against the following track No Friend. I’ll dare to say that Williams is almost rapping in the first verse? After a few listens, the pre-chorus ‘La, la la la’ and ‘eh, eh, eh, eh’ on the bridge and chorus quickly become repetitive and annoying. No Friend features Aaron Weiss, the vocalist for mewithoutYou, who adds an experimental vibe, having guitar loops louder than words. Instrumentally, the track sounds repetitive. . . I guess Paramore just needed another track on their album.
Paramore closes up the album with a slow tempo ballad. Hayley’s voice, sounding smooth, yet the song itself still offers a small amount melodically. The piano dominates with the guitar and drums following afterwards. This creates that new layering to the track. In comparison to Paramore’s previous ballads, Last Hope and We are Broken, the melody appears to be lacking.
Overall, After Laughter is a well-produced, introspectively written album, and no doubt reveals a new chapter for Paramore. While Paramore may lack that natural edge and astounding vocal performances, we all end up caught in the middle between the old and new. After all, it’s always good to see that vulnerable side in what used to be an alternative, pop punk band.
Image courtesy of Fueled by Ramen