Review Summary: Unalarming
We know by now All Time Low are capable of bashing out consistently catchy pop punk tunes at lightning pace. With only a year separating the sixteen songs of Dirty Work
and Don't Panic
, their latest saccharin soaked record, the speed at which they can release consistent material is impressive (though their last forty-odd songs have been so similar sounding they could have all been written in the same session for all I know!).
Since So Wrong it's Right
, All Time Low have had heavy emphasis on the 'pop' in their music. This amount of polish may be a turn-off for some people, but from a writing and production perspective these guys are spotless. 'The Reckless and the Brave' is a testament to this. Heavily compressed, heavily harmonized, it's a very thick, full mix (which remains the same throughout the entire album) and the organized stutters, crescendos and sheer number of variations that occur, almost from bar to bar, is where All Time Low really, um, shine?
All Time Low's lyrics are a controversial subject (fortunately they don't have many, only two verses and a repeated chorus in most songs)and I sympathize with the haters as a lot of it is throwaway ("Say goodbye to the halls and the classes / say hello to a the job and the taxes / the weekends with old friends spilling into 9 to 5 routine"
, "looking out on a town called suburbia / everybody's just fighting to fit in"
). But there is something about the immediacy of their lyrics that, coupled with the angsty power pop music, really is appealing. True, they reek of writing meetings (I'm not sure they've ever written a personal lyric between them), but that's beside the point. For music you can just jump in and out of whenever you like, these guys have nailed it. Take an example from 'If These Sheets were the States' (my favorite of the album, the catchiest of catchy hooks) - "This bed's an island made of feather down, and I'm stuck here alone / with little else but memories of you, on memory foam / visions of a brighter love, I'd kill for one more day / to pool my thoughts, and find the words to say // If these sheets were the states, and you were miles away / I'd fold them end over end, to bring you closer to me."
I know using "memories of you"
on "memory foam"
is transparent, but it's this kind of accessibility that makes them so darn easy to listen to. Surely they should only be applauded for creating lyrics so befitting of their style?
This album features a couple of tracks with a heavier punk feel (faster tempo, more sporadic drum pattern), but these are some of the poorer songs ('So Long, and Thanks for all the Booze' being one of the exceptions). They don't function well as a more traditional punk song or as an All Time Low Song but thankfully these are few.
Overall it's a pretty predictable set of pop punk songs that never stray far from formula. It's not as good as Dirty Work
or Nothing Personal
(that being said, I think tonally and aesthetically the songs are pretty much interchangeable); there maybe aren't quite as many above average songs. And I don't think this will ever be your favorite album. But at least you know what you're getting with All Time Low. And sometimes, I'd prefer to know I can count on another familiar and comfy sounding dozen or so songs than wish for more and receive less (like an Android tablet owner). It's not progressive (with a couple of minor exceptions, like 'To Live and Let Go' which works well with its 6/8 waltz feel), does it have to be? I may tire of this, hell, I probably grew tired of pop punk a long time ago, but at least I'm not disappointed. All Time Low set out to make an almost mind-numbing collection of catchy rock songs, and boy did they achieve it!
If you're saddened with Green Day (remember when everybody loved them? Before everybody
loved them) at least you can't say All Time Low became bad. Because they probably always were. And long may it continue.