When Paramore started out, they were the face of emo punk, screaming idealism and anger at the top of their lungs, proudly wearing it on their sleeves. Then, they sung anthems of a generation who love and learn, from The Only Exception to That’s What You Get. Their music was characterized as raw, uninhibited and simple. When they played My Heart, you knew it beats for only you.
But with the release of After Laughter, we are faced with a sober and complicated Paramore. The struggles are the same but they are untangled and calculated. They sound composed and mature. But sorrow and sadness persist in their words. The optimism of the beat is a contrast, hinting humor in the band coming to terms with these realities.
Characteristically, the explosive build up and high pitched notes are nowhere to be found. But their reflections on life and love’s difficulties cut through just as much, if not harder. The understated mood draws you to a zone of contemplation and allows you to filter through the lyrics, enough to get you thinking and reminiscing about your own predicaments. After all, the situations vary but the emotions are universal.
Making it through life is a recurring theme on the album. Ain’t It Fun explores the struggle of needing to survive alone. Caught in the Middle discusses growing old and how lost we end up being. All of these you’ll have to unearth through the hopefulness the melodies exude. And with a track like Fake Happy, they do not forget to remind us what is behind the facade.
The album’s highlights are songs centered on their internal conflicts as a band and the choice of whether or not they can stay together. Forgiveness details out how unnatural mercy can come. After all, Hayley Williams’ inability to look past mistakes is what makes her flawed but also human. Tell Me How sings of how losing your core and finding your direction rarely happens together. And Grudges discusses the residual bitterness and the unhealthy baggage coming off of destructive life events.
Despite her sounding cool, she does not become immune to these inconsistencies. The public admission is nothing but an affirmation to the same condition we are all in – ordeals that are simple when talked about but are trickier and complex when experienced.
There is close to zero filler in an album filled with gems about our imperfections. After Laughter is definitely one of 2017’s best and most honest records. It is a testament to how collected and composed you can be, in spite of being broken and wounded. It also demonstrates how breaking away from your sound and letting the world in on your vulnerabilities pay off.
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