Back to the Future: Paramore’s ‘After Laughter’
Adam Flores | Senior Writer
The ‘80s just called. They want Paramore.
Something happened since the release of the pop-punk trio’s 2013 self-titled album. Lost are the violent colors of frontwoman Hayley Williams’ hair and anthemic vocal salvos. The alt-rock hue and anxiety heard within their 2007 breakout single “Misery Business” have permeated into softer, pop-pastel colors within the group’s current musical vision.
Paramore’s fifth studio release, “After Laughter,” shifts course from their pop-punk Warped stronghold back in time to the quirky, arpeggiated sonic ambiance that defines ‘80s pop music. With musical arrangements reminiscent of Talking Heads meets Berlin meets Scritti Politti, the new record is an ambitious mood shift from their angst-ridden, arena-scale sound.
In a recent interview, Williams explained the meaning of the new record’s title:
“‘After Laughter’ is about the look on people’s faces when they’re done laughing. If you watch somebody long enough, there’s always this look that comes across their face when they’re done smiling, and I always find it really fascinating to wonder what it is that brought them back to reality. So, that’s what ‘After Laughter’ is,” said Williams.
“After Laughter,” in its bright sound and energetic, rhythmic motives, is well balanced with Williams’ continued vocal prowess centralized on themes of exhaustion, depression, and anxiety.
Lead single and music video “Hard Times,” released April 19, reveals a turbulent period for the band and their ‘rise of the phoenix’ mantra. Williams’ opening vocal poetic, “All that I want is to wake up fine / To tell me that I’m alright, that I ain’t gonna die,” defines her bildungsroman story, personnel changes within Paramore and a new sound as a result.
“You can run on the fumes of being a teenager for as long as you want, but eventually life hits you really hard. I didn’t even know if we were going to make another record. There was a moment when I didn’t even want it to happen. Then it was like, I want it to happen, but I don’t know how we’re going to do it,” said Williams.
“Told You So,” with its ‘80s-infused rhythmic juxtapositions and new wave brightness, bring to terms living in the panoptical world view, being watched in every move you make. “I know you like / When I admit that I was wrong and you were right / At least I try / To keep my cool when I’m thrown into a fire.”
Paramore may be thrown into the fire by fans that rely on their no-holds-barred, mega-decibel rage. What the band transparently, yet boldly does is changing gears immersing themselves deep into ‘80s era pop extracting bold elements whereas other recent artists such as Taylor Swift and Best Coast have come up short.
“Forgiveness” is one prime example that sees the amalgamation of Cyndi Lauper “Time After Time” vocal tenderness mixed with Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” rhythmic pulse. The track’s analog façade is Paramore’s thesis statement of their world that has brought them to this point both personally and professionally.
Other cuts such as “Rose-Colored Boy,” “Fake Happy” and “Idle Worship” cement the fact that Paramore has left behind their emo-imbued raucous and distorted guitars in favor of freestyle, musical elements and cleaner, sporadic guitars.
“After Laughter” is a bold exploration in ‘80s pop updated and delivered flawlessly. Williams continues to shine emulating Annie Lennox as one of the leading voices in music today. Only time will tell if Paramore will retain its devout fan base as they masterfully change their pace in the hopes of widening their demographic appeal.