It’s no secret that ‘After Laughter’ is an album informed by hurt. Even its title finds itself nodding towards the sadder moments in life. What’s important to realise though, is that this isn’t a record defined by it. Therein lies its greatest power.
For the most part, the path that Paramore have tread over the past fifteen years has been an incredibly uncertain one. With every record, they’ve found themselves reaching a new dizzying high before having another hurdle thrown their way; with the release of their latest record, it’s clear they’ve reached their limit. But where most bands might’ve crumbled, Paramore have risen from the ashes – in many ways, a new band entirely - and, in turn, produced their most iconic album yet.
Back in 2013, their self-titled fourth album saw the band delving deep down into the pop rabbit hole, but it’s on ‘After Laughter’ that they’ve fully mastered the genre. From ‘Hard Times” addictive introduction and the Cyndi Lauper-inspired bop of ‘Rose-Colored Boy’ through to the breezy gorgeousness of ‘Grudges’, these songs are brilliantly bold and brave, unafraid to grin defiantly in the face of the pain that inspired them. Yet, through the quietly introspective opening of ‘Fake Happy’ and the undeniably raw refrain written into ‘Idle Worship”s lyrics, this record shows off a side of Paramore that they’ve never quite felt comfortable with sharing before.
Throughout the album’s twelve tracks, the trio deal with an array of emotions – that tug of anxiety, creeping paranoia, the constant nagging feeling of Imposter Syndrome – but now, finally unafraid to deal with their demons head on, they sound that much stronger for it. Even musically, they seem freer and more content in themselves: probably best demonstrated by the almost-poignant chimes of ‘Pool’, or through Aaron Weiss (of mewithoutYou)’s incendiary appearance on ‘No Friend’.
While Paramore’s journey to this point has been anything but smooth, ‘After Laughter’ can – and, as ‘Tell Me How’ reaches its reflective conclusion, does - at least provide some well-earned catharsis. An album that’s ultimately OK with not being OK, it’s for that reason alone that it may just be perfect.