Spotify really knows how to get you. I don't know if it's voodoo, magic or some elaborate listening device that they've somehow planted on me at all times, but every now and then I find myself with a push notification on my phone. "There's a new release by x" - often it's something to be ignored (Lionel Richie) but occasionally it throws something at me that's worth a damn (Kendrick's untitled album thing). So when the phone pings on Friday night - Paramore have a new release - it's on a knife edge... do I click it? My brow begins to sweat. I'm bored, I have time to fill... but what if it's horrific? Well... let's find out.
I clicked it on, first things first - is this Calypso music? Hard Times starts strange... this isn't the Paramore you know. When Hayley Williams' voice floats in, there's a weird familiarity but to borrow a Diamond Dallas Page quote - "This ain't your mama's Paramore". Less angst, more upbeat - it's damn catchy. I was going to sit here and go track by track, but I'm not a music journalist, so referring to soaring middle eights and inspiring arpeggios seems insincere, so I'm going to tell you exactly how it is - this is their best attempt.
After Laughter is a pop album, make no bones about it. Its unapologetically catchy, its exciting, its clever. In parts it drags you up and makes you feel super happy, while other times it'll drag you to the depths of the bands fifi-zone. The peaks and troughs are great and as someone who's grown up listening to this band, I'm happy to report that it's way better than their last album. Granted, that record did produce the mighty "Ain't It Fun" - a song which I still consider to be their best track period, but there's enough here that you'll likely find yourself a new favourite Paramore song - "Told You So" comes incredibly close for me.
"Fake Happy" has an intro which immediately grabs you with a sentiment we can all get behind - pretending you're happy when you're not. The teenage dreamers that make up a large chunk of their fanbase will be all over that - as am I to an extent. It branches into a great little uplifting song. This is the start of the "meat" of the album, where a lot of the early 80's pop inspiration (think Haim but way more interesting) is replaced with what I'd term "classic" Paramore - a guitar and Hayley's voice - introducing a sprinkling of strings for good measure on "26".
The pop-iness is retained in parts, but a few of the songs in this phase are a little bit forgettable for me - until we arrive at "Tell Me How". The final song of the album. A very heartfelt Williams led ballad - an excellent one at that. I don't know if its always been the case, but when it's a song about heartbreak, Hayley knocks it out of the park. Easily one of the best album tracks they've ever produced for my money and a great way to end the record.
I've sat cover to cover on it a few times now and the more I absorb it, the more I think the new direction is a vast improvement. It's similar to when The Killers went a bit weird and synthy - it divided people, but ultimately I think it brought about some of their best work. That's happened here and it's absolutely a joy to behold. They've stolen influences from plenty of places sure, but there's an overarching feeling that this is the Paramore that 2017 needs. It's nice to look back, but as a full record - this is their best yet for my money.
It's an 8/10