Paramore is a band I have always loved. I have followed them from the highest highs to the lowest lows throughout their career. I hoped that I would never see the day the bubble popped, but it seems like that day may be here. ‘After Laughter‘ is the first Paramore album in four years and arguably their most different.It’s also the first of their albums that has left me completely cold.
When ‘Hard Times’ the album’s first single was released, it split fans down the middle. Rightly so it sounded like Paramore but was a somewhat drastic departure. It was an 80s pop inspired track that wouldn’t have felt out of place on Taylor Swift’s latest. After Laughter then is surely going to completely divide opinion. Paramore is a band that knows how to write massive hooks. There is no shortage of huge songs in their catalogue, which then why After Laughter smacks of being such a letdown.
One of the main problems with After Laughter is that it lacks identity. This is an album that takes a lot of cues from other places and doesn’t do a lot with them. The main influence here seems to be 80’s pop and the re-emergence of it in today’s charts. You can hear moments in it, that sound familiar but not a single thing that sounds like Paramore. The big hooks, the clever lyrics and the things that you loved are gone. After Laughter is a very lethargic album that never really steps into another gear.
There is a minimalist approach that sees the huge guitars and massive choruses stripped out. In their place is a lot more bass and synths. There is an electrical hum and a fizzy buzz that bubbles under the surface. It underwhelms rather than excites. Maybe it’s that they are out of their comfort zone or perhaps that the songwriting doesn’t match their ambition, there is just something that doesn’t click.
There are moments where it threatens to the pick up the pace. ‘Fake Happy’, ‘Told You So’ and the frankly brilliant ‘Rose Coloured Boy’ rise above the rest. It’s a shame then that the highs are outweighed by the lows. After Laughter is a largely unmemorable album that feels quite soulless and lacking a clear direction. Outside of the aforementioned tunes, there isn’t anything that you can sink your teeth into. Closing track ‘Tell Me How’ lyrically is pretty great, but someone limps along and see’s the album go out with a whimper rather than a bang.
If After Laughter had been a Hayley Williams solo album without the Paramore name attached then I think this would be a different story. But for a band who has crafted a career by being some of the best songwriters of their generation, it is hard not to feel a little empty after listening to this. An album full of disposable pop from a band we have come to expect so much more from. But with that said it’s one major misstep in an otherwise flawless career. So, maybe when all is said and done Paramore will end up having the last laugh after all?