Paramore. They’re one of those bands whose music I can appreciate, but I’ve never been crazy about. I’m familiar with their big hits, partially because my flatmate at University worshipped the ground that front woman Hayley Williams walked on. ‘Misery Business’, ‘Ignorance’, ‘Ain’t It Fun’, ‘Decode’, the list goes on. They have been one of the flagship names for the post-millennium incarnation of pop punk, catapulting to superstardom with these post-Myspace generation anthems, but with their fifth studio album, they have completely reinvented themselves.
It seems that during the four years since they slowly began to shed themselves of their accessibly aggressive sound with 2013’s platinum self titled release, they then decided to completely ditch the style which they built an international following upon altogether. Now, they are instead reaching out to the indie crowd. It’s obvious upon listening to ‘After Laughter’ that they have been studying a lot guitar bands from this decade. The songs on this record have that style that is so quintessentially indie rock circa 2017. That upbeat, slightly funky tone, where the guitars stick their noses up at chords in favour of poppy noodling, while the rhythm section assumes centre stage. Foals. Vampire Weekend. Two Door Cinema Club. Peace. The Strokes post-‘First Impressions of Earth.’ That kind of thing is the dominant presence here.
Sunny lead single ‘Hard Times’ is fun and bouncy, and a surefire hit with it’s cutesy guitars, captivating grooves and chorus that will be stuck in your head for days on end. It’s an indicator that on this album, the angst driven Paramore that we’re familiar with is gone, and has been replaced with a more playful version of themselves. Out with the power chords and crashing drums, in with the sparkle and cheeky dares for the listener to dance to their music. The other, more melancholy lead single ‘Told You So’ has left me genuinely wondering if Williams actually hired Yannis Philippakis to write the music. It presents a familiar image of late night dance floor navel gazing that has been the trade of Foals over the past decade.
Elsewhere, ‘Forgiveness’ is pure 80’s style pop, a Madonna brand of saccharine, which also, for some reason, slightly reminds me of ‘Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want.’ Should ‘Grudges’ be a single, they should just make the video a three minute long mobile phone advert. It has all the sunset soaked cheeriness of the kind of songs that always find a way to accompany the latest Samsung model. ‘Caught In The Middle’ draws in reggae influences and adds a glossy sheen to them, while ‘Pool’ is driven by a simple but infectious bassline that props up the surrounding guitars. ‘Rose-Colored Boy’ seems to be a note-for-note remake of previous single ‘Still Into You’, but this time with an ‘Angles’ era Strokes sound. And, of course, there is the mandatory mid album reflective acoustic number in ’26.’
Paramore have always been earworm merchants, so you could say that they are completely in their element on this album. Williams’ vocal range is impressive as ever and Zac Farro seems to have adapted quickly to the new incarnation of Paramore since he returned. A band changing their sound is bound to evoke talking points, whether it’s the avant garde grandeur of Radiohead or the “epic riffage” dreariness of certain other bands (mentioning no names, but I’m sure you can think of who!), but if done well then it is a commendable thing. Paramore have overall pulled off the former, but the question is, are they adding anything new to the table?
The songs aren’t particularly diverse and most of them follow a similar formula. Furthermore, this album doesn’t seem to have much on it that I won’t hear on a, say, Chvrches or 1975 record. Which makes me wonder, are Paramore simply cashing in on a current trend, jumping on a bandwagon, pandering to a currently active demographic? Or does this music come from a sincere place?
We’ll never know, but should the more cynical stance on ‘After Laughter’ be affirmed, at least they sound like they’ve had fun in the process. Here is a group of songs that, despite not being life changing for me, are pleasant on the ears. It’s a simple, enjoyable album that doesn’t itself too seriously, and don’t doubt that Paramore will gain one or two new fans who are suckers for big melodies and funky rhythms.
Rating outta ten: A solid six