One of the first music videos I remember seeing was that of Paramore’s “Misery Business.” I was watching what was, at the time, the great fuse channel which was broadcasting one of those music videos mega shows. I remember being blown by the lead singers flaming red hair, and the rest of the band’s energy. From that first viewing, I was hooked. I developed an obsession with the band and my first real celebrity crush on Hayley Williams. I bought their second album Riot which contained the song from the music video along with other classics such as “crushcrushcrush,” “That’s What You Get,” and the epic “Hallelujah.” Two years later when I was in sixth grade, Brand New Eyes came out and blew the doors off once more. Every song seemed to resonate with me with what seemed to be a deeper level than most music. This album was really the one to truly show what music can do in the way of catharsis and meaning. Since then, Paramore has ruled the world essentially. Even with the loss of their lead guitarist, Josh Farro (who writes amazing solo music. I highly recommend), they continue to prove their versatility and resilience and their most recent venture After Laughter is no different.
What struck me first when the initial single, “Hard Times,” came out was just how poppy and happy it seemed. The band seems to have bought into the 1975 trend and regressed back into the 1980’s. I use regress in the most respectful and positive way because they do it very well. Their bright, virtually devoid of bass guitar, tones of Taylor York are smooth and have feeling. Combined with the incessant and fast drum beats of Zac Farro ( who is back in the band!) give these songs the mood and tempo that gives this album energy and excitement. Hayley Williams, with no surprise, did her thing and sings her heart out with the kind of spirit and vigor we have come to expect from her. However, surprisingly I found the real soul in this album comes from the bass tones. Ironically, this is the first album since their freshman album without Jeremy Davis. In fact, the band has no named bassist. I suspect York provided the bass tracks on this album but that is purely speculation. Nevertheless, bass pops and slides giving the songs their backbone and structure. The bass is evident in ways that the guitar doesn’t simply mimic, but complements it. Other than these 4 main components this album houses numerous tracks with xylophones and completely processed keys that give this album that signature 1980’s feel.
One of the songs that sticks out particularly includes the previously mentioned “Hard Times” that really sums up the album and shows what Paramore was going for in their 5th studio release. It is fast and fun, a perfect summer album, which is right around the corner. Track 4 “Forgiveness” is another fun one except the syncopated, inconsistent, and weaving guitar plucking really stands out and the chorus is one of those that just makes you sway. The song “26” is more of ballad-type tune. More Stereotypical of a Paramore slow song, it departs from the feeling of the previous 5, but it is a much-needed break from the rest of the album's speed. The second to last tune “No Friend” is where the album starts to get weird. Hayley Williams doesn’t sing instead Aaron Weiss from mewithoutYou takes the mic and performs a song he wrote the lyrics to. In his signature spoken word screaming style, this feels like a mewithoutYou song with a kick from Paramore’s new sound. It is weird but interesting. I am a sucker for a concluding track and the last one on After Laughter is incredible. I can only imagine it being at the end or climax of some romantic comedy or relationship flick. The rest of the album is great and keeps up with the trends of the first and fourth tracks.
If I could say one thing this album does for me is make me move. I don’t even really enjoy dancing, but I couldn’t help it. Although this may not be the best addition to Paramore’s discography, to me, it is a welcomed departure and improvement. The songs are great, original and are still close enough to be labeled under the name Paramore. After Laughter is different, but illustrates a band's progression and why trying something new isn’t always bad and can often yield favorable results as a band matures.