★★★☆☆: Paramore's 'After Laughter' is no joke

With more lineup changes than the Sugababes, what's a band to do next?

In the metaphorical graveyard of emo bands gone by, you'd expect Paramore's epitaph to read something along the lines of: "Here lies Paramore - a band crushed under the weight of their own".

On 'After Laughter', the band are very down, but not out. The shadow of former bassist Jeremy Davis' impending lawsuit looms large over the band's well-timed reunion with estranged drummer Zac Farro.

“Two years ago I asked Taylor [York, guitarist] if we could start a new band," singer Hayley Williams told The Guardian. "I was so sick of this crap. I said we should just try something new, give it a new name."

“I’ve wanted to quit this band so many times," York added. "Going through all this conflict and drama over the years … I was just like: ‘Man, I feel like we can keep going, but this is not worth it if we don’t want to be here.’”

Don't let the 80s frivolity fool you - it's this frustration described above that underscores much of the album. Even bands are no strangers to the ravages of time, as, at 26, Williams reflects on the fractious legacy her band leaves behind.

Curtain call

Everything about 'After Laughter' feels like a swan song - the satisfactory shutting of a door full to the brim with skeletons. Each exhale between Williams' vocal somersaults feel like a sigh of relief.

It's this sense of weariness, of the mask slipping, of Williams defeat, that makes this a startling listen.

"All that I want/Is to wake up fine," she sings on the opening salvo Hard Times, squirming under the scrutiny of an enormous, long-standing fan base and an inquisitive media questioning her motives within the band.

At every turn, she's despondent. Second single Told You So is equally down-trodden - "For all I know/The best is over and the worst is yet to come". Williams is ready to put the band, that saw her through her formative teenage years, firmly to bed.

The only thing stopping 'After Laughter' being a total moan is its sprightly disposition. Awash in sunny strings and 80s synths, it's hook-heavy; its effervescence spilling over. Particularly joyful highlights include Rose-Coloured Boy, with its sprightly cheerleader chants; and Pool, as masterclass in tropical melody-making. 

It's been argued by many an outlet that their pop swing was an abrupt one - not so. 2013's Grammy award winning Ain't It Fun means this direction is a natural one - and slightly more grown-up than expected.

Arguably though, 26's twee lyricism and soft acoustics come off sickly. Even more so on Fake Happy does Williams risk sounding like a petulant whiney teenager.

Through it all, Paramore have come, quite literally, bouncing back, from breakups, drama and strife. Typically propelled by angst and arrogance, 'After Laughter' marks a nod to the band's acceptance of their own glaring flaws, as a collective and as individuals. It won't stand as their most impressionable work, but considering the history, it's a good place to leave the story.

Paramore's 'After Laughter' is available now from Fueled By Ramen.