As a member of the “new generation” of metal and hardcore listeners, I’ve been exposed to a lot of different forms of music that seem to, despite their wide range of differences, blend into the larger scene of “alternative” bands. One of these genres is the infamous pop-punk. Pop punk has different levels of listenability (in my personal opinion), ranging from the golden gods and pioneers, such as Blink 182 and New Found Glory, the modern favorites (Man Overboard, The Wonder Years) and the, well, undesirables (We The Kings). Up until very recently, I have always thrown Maryland four-piece All Time Low into that third category by default. But with their newest release, Dirty Work, dropping this week, I may just have been converted.
It’s safe to say All Time Low has matured over the years, and has definitely developed a sound that takes more risks. On their newest album, which will be released June 7th, the boys have without a doubt worked to make a record that has some unique twists, but I can not deny that the bubble gum quality and subsequent catchiness that ensues (along with the masses of 14 year old fan girls at their shows) has been erased completely from their arsenal. At times so catchy you think you’ll never stop singing it, and at others so generic you think you’re listening to the soundtrack of a Disney channel movie, Dirty Work still seems to prevail enough to keep you listening. And listening. And listening.
The album opens with stand-out track “Do You Want Me (Dead)” which was a good choice on All Time Low’s part, seeing as it hooks you in from the moment frontman Alex Gaskarth’s vaguely adolescent-but-adult voice hits. The song, and the album in general, sounds summery and bubbly. And though the track is host to the typical “you suck because you’re a confusing girl” lyrics, overall it has a sweet quality that will have you bopping along, whether you admit that you want to or not. “Just The Way I’m Not” rivals the above in it’s ability to conjure up images of warm weather and bonfires; this song is basically tailor made for festival season (think Warped Tour). Featuring gang vocals, relatable lyrics, and poppy guitars full of “picky” riffs, its impossible to say this one won’t inspire some hardcore crowd surfing. All Time Low also showcases their ability to woo the ladies with their sweet-as-honey track “Daydream Away“, which juxtaposes the use of violins and acoustic guitars alongside candid lyrics to create a bittersweet, romantic feeling. Although it can’t compare to acoustic love song gods, such as The Starting Line, it still brings a sincere sentiment to the table that even die-hard non-fans will respect. The album wraps up with my two favorite tracks “That Girl“, an ode to all bitchy yet addictive girlfriends, and the summer break-up anthem “Heroes“, both of which exhibit the fast, happy, punky vibe that gives the truly worthy bands of the genre their swagger.
But, the band also misses the mark on tracks like “Return The Favor” and “Time Bomb” which are blatantly filler tracks with a gross amount of post production that left a bad taste in my mouth (although I have a feeling hardcore fans will salivate over these ones). All Time Low hits rock bottom (or perhaps an all time low, HAR HAR) with their song “Guts” which sounds just like the songs every local CT pop-punk band in my area code plays. But they redeem themselves with the typical yet respectable track “Forget About It“, which will leave long time fans with a smile on their face once they hear ATL’s signature cheeky, electro-bubble-pop sound.
The Final Word: In the end, All Time Low both surprised me and gave me what I expected with this album. Where I was expecting an ultra-poppy, radio-ready record with a good deal of post production, I was not disappointed, but I was also pleasantly pleased to find some truly enjoyable tracks that were both fun and catchy. I would also say that the season is on All TIme Low‘s side with this one, because it drops just in time for me to make it the soundtrack to my lemonade-sipping, sunscreen slathering, festival filled dog days of summer.