Hard Times

Happy Monday! Another week, another band t-shirt. Following the mini heatwave this weekend in the UK, today for #MerchMonday I’m wearing this summery number from Paramore.

I got it back in 2017, shortly after the release of After Laughter, Paramore’s fifth and most recent studio album. This was a limited edition shirt they made with clothing brand UNIF (of which they only made 1,000), but thankfully I was able to get one all the way from the US. It’s now my favourite Paramore shirt, and one from my collection I still wear on a regular basis – especially when the sun is shining. As well as in music, front-woman Hayley Williams is well known for her contribution in the world of style too – as co-founder and CEO of her own hair dye company, Good Dye Young. So yeah, it’s always nice to see a band’s style and personality come through in their merch, as well as their music.

I spent a lot of this weekend listening to After Laughter, which was my top album of 2017. This long-awaited come-back album presented a big shift in sound for the band – from their long and established career in emo / pop-punk, to a new style of more 80s new-wave / synth-pop. Or as they like to describe themselves now, genre-neutral. Many original fans weren’t too happy with this change in direction, but I personally I fell in love with the album almost immediately. I’ve always been a fan of Paramore (and Hayley Williams generally), following them since the early days and through the controversy in the public eye over the years. But whilst this was very a different direction, I totally appreciated their desire to try something new. Being the same age as Williams, I have watched both her and the band grow up, (and I with them). On their most recent UK tour last year, she spoke out about choosing to no longer play Misery Business, their most well-known hit from the Riot! era – “We are not those people anymore, and neither are you.” A line which really stuck with me. Why should a band be beholden to stay in a genre they fell into in their early teens? We all change over the years as we get older, why does that mean they’re not allowed to? After Laughter represented something so much more than a come-back album. For them it was a fresh start, and with that, an opportunity to reinvent themselves and focus on rebuilding the band, and to some extent from Williams’ perspective, herself.

The album itself sounds bright and vibrant, with a real 80s-pop feel – no doubt influenced by the return of drummer Zac Farro, who has experimented more with different genres in his side-project HalfNoise. The upbeat and catchy sound is strongly contrasted however by the lyrics, which have a much darker tone, with underlying themes of depression, anxiety and hopelessness. Upon closer listening, you quickly realise the irony of this juxtaposition considering the subject matter. It’s an album which explores the challenges and complexities of Williams’ own mental health, but with that also celebrates her road to recovery through music… It is clear that this was much more than just another Paramore album, it’s almost like it was a form of therapy for her. Openly discussing such a personal subject is something I strongly admire her for doing, and as a band, choosing to use their platform as a way to help try and normalise mental health, I feel is incredibly inspirational.

So yeah, I wear this t-shirt because it’s lovely (and has a pocket), but also because it reminds me of a powerful album which means a lot to me personally. Overall, despite its darker side, and whether you can relate to the lyrics or not, After Laughter is full of catchy tracks that make you want to dance just as much as cry. Or as Paramore like to put it… Cry hard, dance harder.

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