I think somebody needs to explain to me what is the hype behind Paramore – because the more I listen to their material, the less I’m seeing it.
That’s not saying they’re bad – their first three records are a respectable slice of emo-leaning pop rock, with Riot! probably being the best of them, but even then I was never really wowed by the writing or the performances or the production – good music, sure, but nothing I’d actively seek out or that I thought stood out against the rest of the pop rock boom. Then there was the self-titled album in 2013 that I actually reviewed for a year-end anniversary, an album released after the lead guitarist and drummer quit… and again, for mid-2010s pop rock released on Fueled by Ramen, it certainly checked off the boxes, but I did not understand all the critical acclaim that was piled on that record. There were a few catchy singles, sure, and Hayley Williams’ brand of colorful theatrics had its moments – helped by self-aware songwriting that was getting better – but at the end of the day I was lukewarm on the project at best, and I have not had any inclination to revisit that album since.
So I wasn’t remotely surprised when they decided to pivot towards retro-new wave for their newest record – sure, their bassist was now gone, but producer Justin Mendel-Johnsen was filling in and they actually got their old drummer Zac Farro back. Hell, I wasn’t even surprised by the change in direction – punk acts have gone new wave to stay relevant since the late 70s, this is not new. What did catch my attention was the emphasis on how trying this recording session apparently was, and how much that struggle had translated into the rather dark themes contrasting with the brighter instrumentation – again, this isn’t new, but as a more polished spin on their emo-leaning lyrics in the past it could make for an interesting listen, so how does After Laughter turn out?
Overall Rating: 6/10