Amazing Work Once Again
Since they burst onto the pop-punk scene with the platinum smash RIOT! in 2007, Paramore have undergone a lot of different changes. Though vocalist Hayley Williams has remained front and center the whole time, the lineup has shifted around her. Longtime members and co-songwriters Josh (lead guitar) and Zac Farro (drums) left the band in 2010. Without them, the band slowly left the emo bubble and wandered down a more experimental path with 2013’s self-titled album being a 17-track smorgasbord of every possible genre Williams, guitarist Taylor York, and bassist Jeremy Davis could think of creating. Now in 2017, Davis has left, original drummer Farro has returned and After Laughter, the band’s decidedly emo-free fifth album, has hit stores.
In stark contrast from the self-titled album’s gleeful experimentation, After Laughter is consistent and focused in its sound. This sound, however, finds Paramore trading in their distorted guitars and thundering drums for cleaner, mellower tones, grooving bass lines and subtler beats to create a funky, synthed-up pop rock record reminiscent of the early 1980s. It’s never easy for a band to transition from their old musical style, but Paramore have done it seamlessly.
The album’s opening track and lead single, “Hard Times,” begins with a dual guitar–keyboard melodic phrase before launching into a disco beat with gang vocals shouting the title several times per chorus. Other highlights include the similarly bouncy “Rose-Colored Boy,” the reggae-tinged “Caught In The Middle” and a personal favorite, “Fake Happy,” which combines a singable keyboard melody in the verse with the biggest and most anthemic chorus After Laughter offers.
Williams’s vocals once again capture everyone’s attention on the album; and they should. Her wide range has always been a signature element of Paramore’s sound, and she shows off her low notes more than on previous releases — one particular track that shows this is “Grudges.” The real unsung hero, though, is York, who co-wrote every song on After Laughter. His guitar is given an entirely new role: on previous releases the distorted power chords would stand out, but now keyboards often provide those sounds and the guitar plays single-note countermelodies (though not always). Meanwhile, Farro proves he’s not just a standard rock drummer; his funky grooves tie everything together.
Overall, After Laughter is both a bold step forward and a natural continuation down an already existing path. Paramore are in top form here, and though certain fans won’t like what form that is, the majority will welcome the new music with open arms and keep the band at the top of the charts, where they belong.