I wrote a post distributing my “lame blogger music awards” at the end of 2017. It was six months after Paramore’s comeback album was released and I announced it as the best comeback of the year and honestly the best one I have ever seen and heard a band make. There I said that the only reason I haven’t made a review of this masterpiece is that it was extremely emotionally heavy and hard to talk about. Two years later the album found me again and it was not a coincidence – what it deals with is something which I have to overcome myself. Listening to the album at the right time and understanding what it is trying to convey is a completely different experience. The level of supremacy of the fifth studio album by the band is something which I can finally try to talk about.
They made it out alive and came back better than they have ever been!
I usually have lots of things to say when I am reviewing an album with rich content and relevant topics but After Laughter is on a completely different level. And I have my four pages of notes to prove it. Don’t worry I will not overdo it and I will try to extract the essence of what I have to say but in any case, I think that this Paramore album is absolutely essential for any fan of the band. Also, unquestionable must hear for all of us who have idolized Hayley Williams at one point or another. It contains the story of Paramore told by the reunited Hayley (also Taylor) and Zac and goes through extremely painful topics and revelations.
I see After Laughter as a form of therapy and an open and transparent confession. The album is strikingly mature and presents a drastic shift from the pop-punk and alternative direction that the band has always been associated with. The genius of the album begins with its incredible and surprisingly well-working retro (70s and 80s) sound and instrumentals with uplifting and happy tunes. They are mixed up with contrasting lyrics dealing with extreme depression, existential topics, pain, and redemption. All of this is something which completely destroys the image all of us had about the band and Hayley specifically but it seems to be exactly what Paramore needs and it works better than anything they have done so far. And there is a perfect explanation why – this is the real Paramore, the open, sincere, and vulnerable adults which have come to face their issues and talk about their struggles openly.
The album starts promising with a groovy and dancy confession that you have to get to your lowest point and survive the pressure and torment of your own mind in order to come back to life and start climbing up again. Even at the very first song of the album it is evident that after all the pain and suffering Hayley Williams had to go through she has undergone an incredible metamorphosis and she is ready to start making peace with her past and her demons. The album as a whole represents a reflection of the dark past of the band and a hopeful celebration of the present.
A look back
I think it’s a good idea to point out why After Laughter is such an important album and why it is so relevant for the American pop-rock formation.
Starting with the departure of Zac and Josh Farro in 2010 marking the beginning of the never-ending drama which was to follow. In 2015 Jeremy Davis – one of Hayley Williams closest friends not only abandoned the band but also embroiled a lawsuit against Paramore. He also accused Hayley of being self-centered and egoistic which affected the vocalist of the band severely and her feelings and regret are well-explained during the tracklist of After Laughter (Forgiveness, No Friend, Tell Me How). To make things worse Williams also had to deal with a painful separation with her husband Chad Gilbert which left another scar on her mentality (Pool).
With this being said, the majority of the album deals with the turbulent history of the band combined with other existential troubles and hardships. Most of the songs dwell into the past and the typical for human brains instinct to get stuck in a painful part of it.
Reflecting on past mistakes (Grudges, No Friend), dealing with pain caused by others (Forgiveness, Tell Me How), and being stuck between the regret of the past and fear about the future (Caught In The Middle) are thoroughly explored. Each song has tells a different part of the story and unites the dreadful past reflection with upbeat instrumentals symbolizing a slight hope for the future – especially in Grudges which I see as a celebration of the reunion of Hayley and Zac in a way which doesn’t sugar coat the situation (the fear of the inability to forget the mistakes is still explored in the song).
The culmination of the retold dramatic story of the band is in No Friend – an amazing and superior collaboration with Aaron Weiss (mewithoutYou) which is simply poetry with the perfect instrumentals showcasing the chaos and confusion which the band had to overgo. The song is filled with references to tens of Paramore songs and different periods of the band development which illustrate the highs and lows of the band ending with a tear-jerking confession of being grateful regardless of what has happened.
As I said this album is absolutely real and honest. Depression is explored in-depth an illustrated with colorful and comprehensive metaphors which make the record extremely relevant. Hope and empowerment are not underlooked as well, especially in the most powerful track of the album – 26 which explains the essence of life quite well.
Reality will break your heart
Survival will not be the hardest part
It’s keeping all your hopes alive
When all the rest of you has died
So let it break your heart
Hold onto hope if you got it
Don’t let it go for nobody
Turbulent and emotionally burdening events are unavoidable for anyone and Paramore explain this quite well with their comeback album. A relevant thing which they point out (with Rose-colored boy and Fake Happy) is that negative emotions and sadness are a normal part of our lives. Trying to hide them or forcing ourselves to be optimistic all the time only leads to a harder situation and makes things worse. The topics in those two songs strongly remind of Bring Me The Horizon’s That’s The Spirit – a celebration of depression and a call of accepting negative emotions as a way of dealing with them.
To elaborate on the insignificance of the “happy and joyful persona” Hayley has written an extremely direct and honest reflection of how people see her with Idle Worship. The way people worshiped her and believed they know her very well exhausted her and contributed to her depression which might be hard to hear for the passionate fans of Paramore. The song goes deeper and deeper with each line and passes through the dangers of over-obsession for both fans and artists all the way through an empowering message that each and every person has to deal with problems and no one is perfect.
To make the “welcome to real life” album complete Pool tells the story of a hopeless romance and the scary side of love. Coming back to a relationship which has hurt you many times before holding onto the hope that things will be different might not be a very incomprehensible feeling to some of us. The song becomes perfect the moment it shows that what hurts most is letting go but sometimes that is the right thing to do – here you go – a real and unfiltered love song.
After Laughter is one of the most cohesive and consistent albums I have heard. All the songs are connected to each other and the sound flows gracefully during the duration of the twelve tracks. Not a single things seem to be a coincidence – each tone and each line of lyrics serve their purpose of telling a story and sending a message.
The songs made me realize the important fact that everyone has immense burdens and struggles to deal with and there is always hope as long as you remember to hold into it. Despite the heavy topics and depressing verses every once in a while After Laughter definitely left me with a feeling of warmth and hope and I really wish you found something similar while listening. I can only say that I have massive respect for the determination of this band and after all they went through I am 100% sure nothing can bring them down anymore.