All Time Low is the sort of band that flat-out refuses to stop. It’s been just over a year since the four-piece pop punk band released their fourth full-length album, “Dirty Work,” receiving an array of mixed reviews and escalating their pre-existent reign of success. Since then, they dominated the Vans Warped Tour with their run on the main stage, split with Interscope Records and re-signed to their previous label, Hopeless, and left fans in grave anticipation as to how they’d even manage to out-do themselves yet again. Hence “Don’t Panic,” the Baltimore-natives’ fifth studio album and possibly their best to date since their stint of exposure on the scene began.
In an issued press-release, front man Alex Gaskarth said that in regards to the album, the band decided to take a new approach with “Don’t Panic.” “Rather than taking influence from anything we were listening to at the time-or anything we want to touch on generationally-the goal was to make an album that we felt reflected the best aspects of our previous releases,” and with just one listen, the band’s refreshing mindset is evidently clear. The best way I can describe the album is a perfect balance between where the band would like to be going, and what’s worked for them so well in the past. Essentially, they’ve returned to their roots in the most literal sense with a new sound in mind.
Back in June, the albums first single and opening track, “The Reckless and the Brave” was released as a free digital download, immediately blowing up online and amongst fans and critics. It’s the sort of track that wouldn’t make sense if it were the fourth or fifth song in; it’s a statement within itself, and an excellent opening to the album.
However, it wasn’t until the second track that I was hooked. The issue that I had with bits and pieces of “Dirty Work” (and even tracing back to the previous album, “Nothing Personal,”) were the remnants of significantly and overbearingly poppy sounding songs. “Backseat Serenade” is the perfect balance between their innovatively recent sound, and All Time Low back in 2006. Cassadee Pope (Hey Monday) loans her vocals to the chorus and harmonies, and her voice alongside Gaskarth’s is a match made in heaven.
“If These Sheets Were States” is one of my favorites of anything the band has put out to date. Not only is it typical, catchy All Time Low, but Gaskarth’s lyrics have taken a seemingly simply concept—the idea of being away from a loved one—and created a metaphorical masterpiece, something he’s always been great at. Perhaps it’s the bridge of electric guitar and backing vocals, or just the overall hook and explosive chorus, though nonetheless the song embellishes everything that “Dirty Work” did exactly right.
Classic All Time Low comes out in “So Long Solider,” harnessing a similar feel to even older songs off the band’s first EP. This is where I can only hope the guys tried to reel in the pop sound of their last few albums, reverting back to a sound that gives them a new edge while sticking closer to their roots. The same can be said about “Outlines,” both of which embellish an impressively more concentrated vocal performance from Gaskarth.
“Paint You Wings” is another significant standout (though at this point, which isn’t?). Again, it’s a reminder of what a big step this album is from differentiating their already progressive sound. Imagine a version of “Heroes” off “Dirty Work” with a harder rock sound and a more innovative melody. It’s no secret that Gaskarth’s vocals have always been a driving force behind the band’s music. For me, I think it’s the obvious clarification of just how good he really is in this song that really gives it that last extra push into something great.
While I would’ve liked the band to really bring home this album with a powerful, single-worthy closing track, any song called “So Long, and Thanks for all the Booze,” can’t exactly be criticized. Like any expectant pop-punk song, the chorus is a little repetitive, but in old pop-punk fashion, a few of the tracks fall short as far as any sense of originality is concerned.
Still, it’s no doubt that “Don’t Panic” is All Time Low at the prime of their career. Not only have they progressed from who they were a year or two ago, but they’ve created a steady repertoire with this album of music that sets them back to what fans love most about this band. If there was any sense of straying with their last couple albums, this one is bringing them back stronger and better than ever. Honestly and simply put, pop punk does not get much better than this.
Tickets for All Time Low’s upcoming The Rock Show at the End of the World Tour can be purchased on the band’s official website (www.AllTimeLow.com), and be sure to pick up “Don’t Panic” on iTunes! (http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dont-panic/id554040009)