Review Summary: All Time Low prove they have too much pop and not enough punch
So, here we are. June 2009. The summer is here. Time again for more of the annual onslaught of pop-punk releases to provide the soundtrack for those long nights and lazy days.
Maryland four-piece, All Time Low
, are first in line with the release of their third studio album and follow up to 2007's So Wrong, It's Right
. Perhaps the best pun to sum up this album would be to say there is far more wrong than there is right on Nothing Personal
. It seems they have tripped and fallen backwards into the pit that is mediocrity, (over)producing an album with far too much sugar and not enough sweat.
This comes as a shame, because All Time Low has shown in the past they are talented and capable of producing very good pop-punk that stands out from the crowd. It may seem odd bemoaning the pop sensibilities of a pop-punk record, after all the genre really doesn’t have much in common with actual "punk" apart from the music's backbone. This type of genre is all about blending a pop song's harmonious simplicity with the energy of punk rock and its frantic tempos. When this formula is perfected and delivered, pop-punk can be
a mighty pleasure on the ear drums. Unfortunately, All Time Low appears to have missed the mark by some way.
My main problem with Nothing Personal
is the super slick, over the top production. Too many times vocals are over done with "whoa’s" and double tracked echo effects. All too often simple synth lines are blended with electronic drum sections to make the sound feel too branded and fake. This is the kind of production you'd expect from Metro Station
, and the songs suffer because of it.
Many songs feel like an extention of eachother, even when a couple of slow ballads are thrown in to attempt some variety. The band had always managed to provide enough punch and memorable hooks that made certain songs stand out on their own merit on each previous releases. But on Nothing Personal
, I rarely got that impression.
Despite the many flaws, there are some moments of promise. Towards the end of the record, back-to-back tracks, "Keep The Change, You Filthy Animal" and "A Party Song" provide minor highlights. The former feels like a throw back to early New Found Glory
with its breezy guitar tempos and memorable hook-laden chorus. The latter has a slightly harder and distorted riff to accompany the building rhythm section prior to a very catchy chorus, proving the boys can write a mean hook. It's a shame these moments are few and far between.
Opener and lead single, "Weightless" is nearly ruined with its super clean electro vibe before being rescued by the albums finest chorus, assisted with driving guitars and a bouncy post-chorus riff. "Hello, Brooklyn" is arguably the best example of the many failings on this album. Again, another electronic drum riff is joined by a stale and repetitive guitar line that would almost make you believe
you were in fact accidently listening to Metro Station. It gets worse too, synth effects drive the cringe worthy chorus of "Hello Brooklyn, hello life, take the streets all night, cause we sleep all day". Need I say more?
Lyrically, Gaskarth is capable of much better than this. Although never previously straying from the normal pop-punk themes, his lines had far more charm and sarcasm, rather than pure cheese.
Overall, this comes across as a big disappointment and vastly average. The days of ATL staples like "I Can't Do The One Two Step", "Hit The Lights" and "Coffee Shop Soundtrack" seem a distant memory. The band seems to have been caught up in confusion about what they actually wanted to achieve here. Despite the issues I've highlighted, I still have no doubts many ATL followers will still enjoy this release as their poppy moments have always shone through. But as for producing another stellar pop-punk release, this album has far too much studio shine, over used clichés and not enough raw punch.
If you're looking for a quality summer pop-punk fix, stick to old school Green Day, Blink 182 or New Found Glory.
Keep The Change, You Filthy Animal
A Party Song