MusicMatters

Album review: “Don’t Panic” by All Time Low

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Before I start my Album Review of “Don’t Panic” by All Time Low, I just want to give a brief history of the band. All Time Low was part of the wave of pop-punk bands that came to prominence and mainstream attention during the mid-2000’s although they were signed to an indie label just like a lot of their contemporaries.

They became fan favorites mainly for the lyrical prowess and charm of lead singer Alex Gaskarth. Aside from the fact they looked good, they were young and capable musicians. They weren’t a “bubble-gum pop” band. They managed to build a loyal following that made them–from a regional hit in their hometown in Baltimore—to become a recognized band in the entire United States.

It was therefore inevitable that major record label heads would be “knocking on their door” and it did happen last year with the release of “Dirty Work” under Interscope Records. But to the dismay of longtime fans of All Time Low who have followed their career beginnings and are all too familiar with their work, the digital and album sales didn’t meet the expectations of Interscope Records  despite their being heavily hyped and practically trumpeted as the next commercial pop-punk band that would follow the likes of Blink-182 and Yellowcard.

“Dirty Work” was overly radio-friendly pop-rock songs which sounded “Disney” and not pop-punk songs. The songs were too glossy and not gritty enough. Reports came in that All Time Low handed over their creative control to the “label-head suits” in exchange for marketing schemes and the assistance of co-writers who never got to work with the band from the start.

The once hailed songwriting skills of lead singer Alex Gaskarth suddenly became a far cry from the way he wrote his songs when he was still under an indie label. Because of said developments, their longtime fans naturally got disappointed with their major label debut and went as far to call them “sell-outs”! Whether this was from biased fans or overly obsessed fans of the band, we don’t really know. But what we do know is that All Time Low consequently got dropped from Interscope Records because of the dismal number in digital and album sales.

From that chain of events which transpired some fans have wondered what would happen now with All Time Low and whether they could still manage to release a new album. Well, they need not have to wonder any longer–All Time Low has released a brand new album “Don’t Panic” under the flagship of Hopeless Records. Will this be a return to form for the band?  Let’s review their album “Don’t Panic” to find out.

From the first track, Alex Gaskarth makes clear about his feelings when he was under a major record label. Here, he expresses his frustrations of the band’s having been misled and basically promised instant fame. This is more pop-punk as this first track indicates they have shed off the “image” they had under Interscope Records. Alex Gaskarth takes no prisoners here and gets the album going with a solid track.

The second and third track “Backseat Serenade” and “If These Sheets were States” do not quite measure up with the first track. Although the songs are not that lyrically strong they are still catchy with their crafty verses.

The fourth track “Somewhere in Neverland” is the most addictive with its lyrics that echo of a young Alex Gaskarth singing about his refusal to ever grow up and wishing to make time stand still. It features a chorus so catchy that after a few listens it would be hard to forget. This track showcases the songwriting skills of Alex Gaskarth. The fifth track however is skippable as it sounds more like a regular B-side track than anything else.

The sixth track “The Irony of Choking on a Lifesaver” features playful lyrics and further creativity with the additional usage of handclaps.

The seventh track “Live and Let Go” is the heaviest track of the album with the vocals of Alex Gaskarth hitting the high register mark. It’s almost rock-arena like and he is backed by the relentless pounding of the skins by drummer Rian Dawson and Jack Barakat’s sporadic Guitar lines. A great in-the-moment in the listen!

The seventh track “Outlines” exhibits one of the most powerful lyrics of Alex Gaskarth and likewise features guest vocal work of Jason Vena, another one of their peers in the indie scene. They both share vocal duties here without overshadowing the other and the result is one of the best songs from All Time Low, thus far.

The rest of the remaining track from the 8th to 11th, you can skip those.

But the last track “So Long, and Thanks for all the Booze” ends the album in a strong and heavy note and just like the first track, Alex Gaskarth’s songwriting skills are again highlighted here. The accompanying aggressive guitar riff by Jack Barakat matches the angrier side of Alex Gaskarth’s change in singing style who is in his “punk mode” here.

“Don’t Panic” is an album which longtime fans of All Time Low could compare easily with their earlier works. Moreover, this album also marks the band’s reaching a new milestone in their careers and that is hitting the ten-year mark of making music together. Whether you have ruled out All Time Low as sell-outs or just another band composed of good looking guys, this album proves otherwise how exceptional they are as musicians when they have creative control handed backed to them! And maybe this was the way their major label debut “Dirty Work” should have sounded and they would have remained all-time-high!

My Final Verdict: 8/10.

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