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Paramore released their fifth studio album ‘After Laughter’ today. With humble Tennessee beginnings, Paramore took the punk-rock scene by storm with pint-sized powerhouse Haley Williams in the lead. After releasing anthem after anthem of punchy kick-ass tracks, they’ve decided to change it up a bit…and by ‘a bit’ they mean A LOT. To the point that if you’re not a fan of Paramore, you may like this album, as it sounds absolutely nothing like the Paramore we know and love.
It seems they’ve traded their punk-rock rebellion for 80’s-themed synthesizers and a softer side to Williams’ vocals. After Laughter begins with the single ‘Hard Times’ which released a few weeks ago. It’s a funky combination of 80’s electro-pop and William’s punk-style vocals.
‘Rose-colored Boy’ is the second track and takes off with interesting group vocals and a beachy/summer vibe. The rhythm picks back up and starts to feel more aligned with the earlier Paramore.
‘Told You So’ is the fourth track and something about it just feels off. The tempo isn’t exactly right and the vocals and instrumentation don’t jive like they should.
‘Fake Happy’ is about midway through the album and is a powerful use of Williams’ vocal range. This track really showcases her talent and vocal versatility. Not only can she deliver those punchy rock vocals flawlessly, but she can also hold a long melodic note beautifully. The layered backing vocals add some dynamism and create a truly interesting song.
’26’ comes next and is a slow, wistful ballad, which seems like a bizarre thing for Paramore. If you listen long enough, you’ll realize that it is an odd thing for Paramore.
‘Pool’ is where After Laughter gains some traction. It’s fun and in a higher octave than typical Paramore. It sports chime-like synthesizers and catchy, rhythmic lyrics. This song definitely would have been at the top of an 80’s chart! A key phrase in the chorus sings, ‘I’ll dive back in…’ and exudes a subtly uplifting message about perseverance. Don’t give up when things get hard – jump back in there like the badass you truly are.
‘Caught in the Middle’ takes things back down a notch. It’s slow and chill, using the synthesizers and keeping a steady rhythm. Williams sings, ‘I think I’m a little bit caught in the middle – Gotta keep going or they’ll call me a quitter…’ It’s possible that perseverance is an overarching theme for the entire album. ‘Caught In the Middle’ continues with ‘I can sabotage myself…’ Perhaps they anticipating pushback from long-time fans with this drastic change…
The remaining tracks are similar to ‘Told You So’ with unusual tempos that are difficult to get into. ‘Idle Worship’ is three minutes of whining disguised as vocals, although the chorus gets better, but still not Paramore’s best work.
Overall, After Laughter is an interesting and unusual path for a punk-rock band to take – their willingness to experiment and grow their sound is commendable, while we hope they might come back to their roots in the future. Listen to the entire album here. Pop D gives this album a 3 out of 5 stars.