If your summer playlist is lacking in a bit of pop-punk punch, never fear: All Time Low has your back with their latest album, Last Young Renegade. Comprised of vocalist/rhythm guitarist Alex Gaskarth, lead guitarist Jack Barakat, bassist Zack Merrick and drummer Rian Dawson, All Time Low originally came together as a pop punk cover band with a concentration in Blink-182. They released their debut album before they graduated high school and have been touring ever since. Several different record labels and six albums later, All Time Low is still going strong for the seventh entry in their discography.
Last Young Renegades kicks off with its titular track, a bouncy song that looks back on the breakup of a summer romance. A gentle guitar intro builds to a fun, rocking chorus: “You were my last young renegade heartache/It only took one night/Caught in the eye of a hurricane darling/We had to say goodbye.” “Last Young Renegade” feels like an easy successor to the Ataris’ 2003 cover of “The Boys of Summer,” albeit with a less serious tone.
The theme of nostalgia continues throughout most of the album. Songs like the contemplative “Good Times” and high-energy “Nice2KnoU” capture the spirit of epic suburban all-night adventures with their friends while simultaneously saying goodbye to some of the friendships they’ve made along the way. While “Nice2KnoU” serves as a closing point for some of their good times, it also serves as a tribute to those who have supported them along the way and a promise that they’re still going to be around.
While these songs turn a wistful yet ultimately uplifting tone towards the band’s past, there are a few songs that examine the darker side of being in the business for fourteen years. “Life of the Party” explores the cost of fame at such a young age, specifically the danger of losing yourself to fame. There are allusions to an overabundance of alcohol and partying, along with statements like “In a sea of strangers, I can’t find me anymore.” On their Instagram, the band described this song as “an anthem for a million hazy, wasted, restless nights; melancholy undertones full of waking regret and clumsy self-indulgence. It speaks to the part of who we are that always wants to please, trying to live up to the expectations of the spotlight pointed back at us.” It’s an honest, introspective look at their current situation, and arguably one of the best songs on the album.
Unfortunately, the first half of the album is stronger than the second. In the past, All Time Low’s albums have received criticism for being too overproduced and lacking in cohesiveness. While Last Young Renegade is fairly uniform in its themes of nostalgia, relationship drama, and general suburban discontent, it lacks cohesiveness in how they treat the themes. While the start of the album is filled with the catchy hooks of “Last Young Renegades” and the fast-paced adventure feel of “Nice2KnoU,” and the muted party atmosphere of “Life of the Party,” the second half falls back on standard pop-punk fodder. Exempting “Ground Control,” the collaboration with indie pop duo Tegan and Sara, songs back half of the album like “Dark Side of Your Room” and “Afterglow” seem to be playing pop-punk bingo, checking off phrases like “notches on your bedpost,” “you’re making a fool out of me,” and declarations of ruling the streets to make a run of unremarkable tracks.
Overall, Last Young Renegades is a decent album. On the one hand, the album is full of catchy tracks perfect for summer playlists and some good car singalongs. They still seem to be working on maturing their sound and themes a bit, but their introspection and nostalgia fails to mask their later reliance on pop-punk cliches. Unfortunately, they haven’t yet effectively matured their messaging like Fueled by Ramen contemporaries Paramore and Panic! at the Disco.