Sunday, May 21, 2017

After Laughter | Paramore



Paramore isn't exactly the same band you lived vicariously through in middle school any longer.

Since the band's debut in 2005, its moniker might have been its only stable element. Its member roster has been crushed and rebuilt time after time amid storms of rapid-fire allegations hurled at Hayley Williams – that she's lax in her Christianity, that she's the only member of the band contractually bound to Atlantic Records to ensure she's the sole star of the Parashow, that she weaseled a member out of promised songwriting royalties... The list goes on. In essence, the band has spent most of its lifespan caught up in, well, itself.

But through it all, Paramore has survived – even if barely – as has Williams – again, even if barely. Once known for hair dyed such bright colors that it could be considered an outright visual assault on passersby, Williams now dons a head of hair that shares a color tone with bleached flour. Stripped of her high-gloss personality coating, she becomes more believable than ever before when tapping into genuine pain. Her newest reincarnation comes not to release a few years of pent-up teenage angst, but instead to reflect on her anxiety and depression as the band imploded in the palm of her hand yet again between this record and the last.

Grasping onto a newfound maturity, she backtracks on plenty of past lyrical staples, relying heavily on references to the band's first four records as she claims to have killed the last fraction of her optimism and become the type of unrealistic, daydreaming escapist that she once criticized. But Williams' attitude isn't the only element that has taken a turn; the band has ditched its roots altogether – the pop-punk ones that the band had already started to cut away with 2013's transitional self-titled record – in favor of agreeable pop on its face, a new trend that has swept across acts that once prided themselves on a certain level of viral counterculture status.

The changes serve their purpose, though, reviving a band that was on the brink of folding for good. Rehashing what has already been done would only gash open the half-healed wounds, so the band walks another avenue, locking eyes on survival but keeping the past in the periphery. While that means a seemingly drastic change for listeners, the product still seems familiar because the successful juxtaposition of Williams' grief with the fizzling pop sparks roughly equates to the same basic principle upon which Paramore was founded: barreling through the pain via song, even if that means plastering on a smile but allowing the stretched threads of a band in crisis show through.

After Laughter is available now under Fueled by Ramen.

2 comments:

  1. Hi, any reason why you gave this 3.5 stars as compared to a different score? I only ask because you don't talk specifically about any of the songs. Would have loved to hear about your favorites or least favorites a bit more! With all that said, I still love your reviews and look forward to reading more of them in the future.

    -Avery

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    1. Hi Avery,

      Thanks for reading! I threw 3.5 stars to After Laughter because the back half of the record drags along for me; it's alright material, but it all blurs together in a melted pot of tinny, mid-tempo drums by the end.

      My favorite tracks are "Hard Times," "Fake Happy," "Rose Colored Boy," and "Pool." My least favorites are probably "Grudge" and "Caught in the Middle."

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