After Laughter

Written by: TL on 04/06/2017 18:27:01

Despite some debate among fans around the stylistic changes on their 2013 album, Paramore's self-titled saw the band rise to new heights of their career and produced a handful of tracks that undeniably are still worth putting on these days. Really the band had, until then, shown stable growth from album to album, with Hayley Williams not only growing from a talented frontwoman with a striking look into a Singer with a capital S but also with the scope of what they could do expanding outside the confines of their regularly slapped-on pop-punk label. Sure they could do that, but they could also deliver things like the high drama of a "Decode" or the pop perfection of "Ain't It Fun", and for a time, the world was their oyster.

Four years down the line, bassist Jeremy Davis has departed somewhat grumblingly, while old drummer Zac Farro is back on the team, alongside what must now be considered the main duo: Guitarist Taylor York and Williams herself. They're growing into the later half of their twenties now, perhaps feeling a little too old to remain just teen idols, yet with "After Laughter" - their fifth album overall - the group actually disappoints by being unable to mature in any particularly captivating way.

The album was spearheaded by the single "Hard Times", which showcased a sound with the energetic pop-punk riffs taken out, replaced with a funky, bubbly, calypso-ish feel. And this proves to be symptomatic for the album, as if Paramore have spent time listening to groups like Bombay Bicycle Club, The 1975, Arcade Fire or The Maccabees. This might not seem like the worst inspiration to try and grow with, but where those bands often manage to sound eclectic and immersive when donning sounds like that, Paramore feel distinctly like they're just trying to puzzle the parts into rigid pop-structures which routinely under-utilize their own singer's capacity for jaw-dropping vocal work.

From the first couple of songs, you get the impression that the tracks are at least distinct enough in their hooks to stand apart from the album, but even for their noticeable variations, the impression grows that they have the exact same energy and that this energy is very laid-back. It's as if the things that are at stake in Williams' vocals are just not really a big deal for anyone. You imagine the intention being progression away from heart-on-sleeve melodrama and into more mature introspection, but where songs like "Forgiveness" and "Fake Happy" land more in the area of just dull. And similarly, a song like "26" tries to go for beautiful, building from acoustic strumming into classical arrangements, but stops short somewhere around "just neat".

It gets really hard to stay interested down the stretch of the second half of the album, as Paramore keeps trying to fake an identity of an indie-pop band that doesn't fit them. "Idle Worship" offers a late point of redemption (to compliment an early one in "Rose-Colored Boy") by feeling like it has a bit of actual attitude, but the following "No Friend" is just puzzling, as the band decides to hand the microphone to mewithoutYou's Aaron Weiss, only to then turn him down so low that anything he mutters in his characteristic, spoken-word style is all but completely unintelligible.

So while it's worth hoping that this is an album that spurs on another period of creativity and more frequent output - If for no other reason then because Hayley Williams is honestly too much of a superstar singer that it'd be a waste if not - The stylistic changes they try on here fit them poorly, and result in such safe and unremarkable songs, that whatever significance the record has to them personally, it's likely to just be a footnote for the rest of us.


Download: Idle Worship, Rose-Coloured Boy
For The Fans Of: Tonight Alive, PVRIS, We Are The In Crowd

Release date 12.05.2017
Atlantic / Warner Records

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