I’ve tried very hard to remain positive regarding the songs Paramore leaked prior to the May 12 release of their album, “After Laughter.” I enjoyed the first released track “Hard Times” (for the most part), and the second track – “Told You So” – I enjoyed a little less.
Truthfully, I wanted nothing more than to have my negative predictions on how genuine and individual this album would be to be proven wrong – unfortunately, they weren’t. I thought that I’d hear the album and be disappointed, but hoped that wouldn’t end up being the case. Sure enough, it was.
If you’re a fan of the distinctive 1980’s pop sound as well as electronically altered vocals and instruments (which isn’t always a terrible thing, depending on your taste) then you probably won’t have a problem with this album. “After Laughter” captures the powerful joy and electric excitement that most 1980’s pop songs were constructed of, while orchestrating those popular and well-known sounds in a way that overwhelms us with nostalgia yet simultaneously reminds us that we’re still in the year 2017. Both my initial and final thoughts on this album was that it was “Pop Art coming to life through music,” because every song was just dripping with color and vibrancy – but that just isn’t the Paramore we have all come to know and admire.
Paramore – a band that I’ve always been a fan of – has disappointed me. Bands evolve; it’s a necessary step in order to grow both as individual musicians and a band as a whole. However, this does not fully justify dropping everything that has made your band stand out musically for so many years. Paramore has always kicked ass and kept punk-rock alive and unique; however, through “After Laughter, they have willingly let it die.
Now, what would an album review be without some dissection? Below I have listed the three songs that I feel have provided most of the album’s character – in other words, the only songs that unquestionably stood out to me.
Three Songs That Stood Out in “After Laughter”
This song is beautiful, because it is simple. Not painfully simple, thankfully, but it’s a refreshing and necessary break from the chaos caused by the rest of the album. “26” is a song I had to listen to at least three times because I really wanted to hate the entire album, but “26” made that nearly impossible. This song brought me back to reality: no matter what sound Paramore decides to take on and call their own, it will never taint their outstanding ability to create pure art. This song is very light, very easy going, consistently whimsical, and has that classic sound that continues to remain ageless.
2. “Caught In The Middle”
“Caught In The Middle” was adorable, and I don’t think I’ve ever described a song as “adorable” before. The intro is nothing too extravagant, very plain and joyful. The dynamics aren’t chaotic or scattered thoughtlessly, and the light bouncy blend of Hayley Williams‘ vocals with the instruments is enjoyable. This skillful blend is a well-known musical characteristic incorporated into so many songs we’ve come to love, such as Blondie‘s “The Tide Is High” for example. Ultimately, the song isn’t impressive…but it is familiar and hard not to enjoy even just a little bit.
3. “No Friend”
This song stood out in the sense that the direction in which the band decided to take regarding the overall sound was terribly random – the entire song feels like a buildup to something extraordinary, and then it ends. Not only is this style surprising and disappointing to hear on a Paramore album, but it does not even remotely flow with the rest of the album’s songs. Paramore’s self titled 2013 album did a great job in preparing fans for the change they would make to the band’s sound as they continued to write music. The 2013 album incorporated sounds that leaned more towards the “pop” genre and strayed pretty far from their usual punk-rock tendencies, which wither struck interest amongst fans or triggered disappointment. There wasn’t a second of “No Friend” that sounded even a little bit like Paramore, and it is arguably the most disappointing song of the entire album.
“After Laughter” was unimpressive and painfully average. One song was wonderful, one song was tolerable, and one song was seriously unusual – if this was Paramore’s goal, then they should be proud. I feel like the band has taken a noticeably large step backwards with this album, but I still have hope for the band of skillful artists.
The album is available now on iTunes, Spotify, and the band’s website – if you decide that you enjoy their new sound, I urge you to support them and the hard work they have put into their music by purchasing the album.
Photo by Zebaztiam, 2016, via Wikimedia Commons.