Emo kids’ eyeliner will be even smudgier than normal this week, because on their fifth album Tennessee alt.rockers Paramore have finally fully ditched the serrated guitar-driven angst and the baggy trousered alt.awkwardness and taken a swan dive heart-first into a big, sunny swimming pool full of old school pop bangers.
Hayley Williams might have heavily hinted at the band’s new direction on 2013’s power-pop leaning ‘Paramore’ album, but ‘After Laughter’ comes over like the earnest, fist-pumping soundtrack to a long-lost John Hughes coming-of-age film. No longer is this a band to file alongside My Chemical Romance but rather the glossy likes of Haim, especially when the sassy handclaps and hairflicks of ‘Forgiveness’ kick in. The nods to their punk past are few and far between, coming through only ska-inflected bounce on ‘Caught In The Middle’, which brings to mind early No Doubt, and the moody, marauding ‘No Friend’, on which Hayley takes a time-out and lets Aaron Weiss from Philadelphia rockers mewithoutYou holler grumpily.
But that’s certainly no bad thing – unless you’re really, really attached to 2006. With it’s perky marimba, album opener ‘Hard Times’ sets the scene perfectly; a synth-y, tropical offering that’s as cheery and comfortingly brash as a Hawaiian shirt worn out of season – it’s possible to hardly even notice that the lyrics are about being in a damn shitty mood (“Walking around with my little rain cloud / Hanging over my heard and it ain’t coming down”). ‘Told You So’ is similarly sprightly, but with an equally glum outlook (“For all I know / The best is over and the worst is yet to come”). More sonic therapy comes via the addictive ‘Grudges’, which feels like a turbocharged take on The Bangles, and bouncy ‘Pool’ while there’s whispers of classic rock heroines Heart in the dreamy power ballad ‘Forgiveness’ and string-laden ‘26’.
Catharsis is never usually this joyous, but sometimes smiling through the pain works better than crying.