I used to loathe the moments when my Dad would tell me that I’d grow out of my bands; when he’d say that my musical taste would “develop” and “evolve”. I would vehemently disagree and throw a fuss. I would profess my undying love for bands such as Fall Out Boy and argue their artistic integrity, speaking of my everlasting connection to the band. I was convinced that the bands I loved then I would love also at thirty.
Well, two and half years out of high school and I’m saddened to report that my father was in fact correct. Gone are my repeat listening’s of the “scene” bands. Gone is my narrow outlook on music and with that goodbye I’ve grown a love for all venues of music. However, sometimes a band will surprise me and audiences alike and will reenter your wave length and surprise you with a very well put together album. A while back it was Panic! At the Discos Vices and Virtues and this time it’s All Time Low’s Don’t Panic, sounding for the first time since two albums ago like they’re actually enjoying themselves.
For All Time Low’s past two albums Dirty Work (2011) and Nothing Personal (2009) they’ve succumbed to the pressure that many pop-punk bands face and had gone the route of auto-tuned, over saturated pieces that rely more on formulaic songwriting and their gaggle of teenage Warped tour fans, rather than actual innovation and talent.
With Don’t Panic it feels like All Time Low may actually be having fun again. The album opens with “The Reckless and the Brave”, a chanting, cheerful and catchy album opener which while not being particularly separate from their typical sound, promises at the very least a very fun album. Track two “Backseat Serenade” is obnoxiously listenable and has a sing along worthy chorus with singer Alex Gaskarth’s voice, always one of the highpoints of the band, sweeping over the song allowing enough dynamics in his vocals to keep the song from being stale.
The MVP of this album however is drummer Rian Johnson who’s very capable ability is put on pedestal in Don’t Panic. In songs such as “If These Sheets were States” and “So Long Soldier” his drumming is neither basic nor obvious. He isn’t just simply keeping the beat but is adding an extra element to the band. Often in pop-punk cases it’s typical for the vocals and guitar to pull focus so it’s nice that the drums get such a moment to shine, keeping a constant aggressive thrum throughout the album.
The highlights of the album are “So Long Soldier” with Gaskarth providing passionate vocals that recall their days of Put Up or Shut Up. The chorus is simplistic but there is actual feeling behind lyrics such as “Back in ’95 a little boy from just outside of London. Took a fated trip across the ocean. And little did he know. That he would find his voice in verse and chorus” that the structured songwriting is overpowered by powerful singing and abrasive instrumentals. “Outlines” breaks their typical style, speeding straight into the song and not taking a breath until the ending chords ring out, and “To Live and Let Go” and “Paint Your Wings” are both strong installments to a very well put together album, both promising better things from the band if they so choose to embrace their talents.
There are the obvious pitfalls with songs such as “The Irony of Choking on a Lifesaver” and the opening two tracks that sound a little too much like their previous two albums but regardless, at the very least they’re good radio, driving for a long time in the car songs.
It’s not perfect and it doesn’t touch their first efforts in Put Up or Shut Up but it’s a return to old form at the very least. All Time Low has always embraced the silliness of their band and their style of music; pop-punk is supposed to be fun. Pop-Punk music are the songs that are fun to jump around to at an outdoors concert, in the middle of summer, surrounded by individuals who are simply looking to dance, have fun and shout aloud to easily remembered lyrics. It’s not often that I return to music that I’ve put aside as something that my previous self would like, but if All Time Low continues to put out music that inspires a free spirited attitude rather than blatantly looking for a bigger label and more radio time, then I’ll have to give them, and bands like them, more of a fair chance.