Review Summary: Nothing Personal won't find its way onto many End of 2009 lists, but it's still damn enjoyable in an inoffensive, teenage manner.
All Time Low are one of those bands that don't really need to do anything. As long as they don't try to branch out with pianos and all that experimental
rubbish, they are bound to maintain a solid fanbase on the grounds that they put out single after single of youthful, melodic, bouncy 'pop-punk'. The kids (read: demographic) have always loved that, and they always will. But there's something about All Time Low that doesn't seem fake. Despite how their cookie-cutter pop-rock rarely showcases any earth-shattering ideas or artistic revelations, they at least seem genuine, and that counts for a lot. Nothing Personal is a venture into not being adventurous (although it does attempt at points to come across more diverse) but it's also an exercise in solidifying the statement they've made to this point. It seems unlikely All Time Low consider themselves groundbreaking musically, but they're paid to give 16-year-old almost-rebels something to dance to.
Of course, the fact their audience demands nothing more serves as no reason to overlook musical flaws and proclaim Nothing Personal a classic album, but it's not bad. Scrap that; it's great. This is pop-rock that lives and breathes off its ability to sound euphoric when it's turned up loud and hit one or two brilliant
notes in every chorus in order to sound clever. But All Time Low execute that strategy with consistency and aplomb that should really be envied by most other bands in the genre. Writing hooks this good isn't easy - while the verse of lead single Weightless grabs your attention with its quick palm-muted guitar and electronic-sounding drums, it's nothing compared to the chorus that follows. The music drops out for a split-second, which allows Alex Gaskarth to assert, 'Maybe it's not my weekend, but it's gonna be my year,'
with a fist-pumping wall of guitars, some driving bass and a blatantly infectious beat propelling his words.
Gaskarth's voice is hardly the second coming of pop-punk vocalists, but he does his job well. He avoids the primary pitfall of the genre by never being irritating
and carries the vocal hooks brilliantly. His lyrics are similar - they're never philosophical but they never grate, even on the precariously-titled Stella when he sings 'You're only happy when I'm wasted.'
In fact, it's kind of endearing, the way he seems not to know himself on a lot of Nothing Personal's tracks. Weightless is an ode to shaking off burdens, Therapy is surprisingly self-targeted and Sick Little Games is an attempt at the whole bigger-picture lyricism, but if there's one thing you can say about what Gaskarth's singing it's that he's never trying to make it sound more important than it actually is. And usually, it's about as important as girls and getting drunk.
And there's a bit of diversity for good measure. Closing on the down-tempo Therapy, whose chorus floats amid jangly guitars (with Gaskarth sounding like he's been possessed by Ben Kowalewicz of Billy Talent), it's clear that All Time Low are capable of varying their style - very, very slightly, it must be noted - when the time is right. Unfortunately Too Much is a very unambitious and unsuccessful fusing of their guitar-based sound with too many cliched electronic elements, while Break Your Little Heart sounds like a total New Found Glory rip-off except for its saving chorus. So yeah, they hardly try to re-invent themselves. Like I said, why should they? It's a wonder they're mixing it up at all. They're good at what they do - palm-muted power-chords, wordless backing vocals and momentum-raising rhythm.
Nothing Personal won't find its way onto many End of 2009 lists and that's fine. All Time Low aren't the kind of band that are looking for critical acclaim. This type of music isn't pushing at boundaries and knocking down pre-conceptions. It's exactly what you'd expect to hear from a pop-rock band who self-parody themselves as both a Fall Out Boy rip-off (inaccurate) and a Blink-182 clone (closer, but still inaccurate) in their own music video. But if you're looking for a record that doesn't demand too much attention but is still damn enjoyable in an inoffensive, teenage manner, you wouldn't be going far wrong by picking up Nothing Personal. It'll probably pick you up, too.