All Time Low: No Longer “Hometown Heroes”
All Time Low has always been a band with big aspirations. Of course everyone that ever picks up a popular-enough instrument dreams of opening Wembley or touring Warped, but these Baltimore natives (well, technically Cockeysville in Baltimore County according to their MySpace) never let their listeners forget that they had bigger plans. On “The Party Scene” off of All Time Low’s debut album, lead singer and rhythm guitarist Alex Gaskarth sings, “Hey, kid, you’ve got, a lot of potential / but I think it’s time to move up, / so go on and blow us away with your sound; / Now you’re everything that we’ve come to love, / you taught us to move, so we’ll show it off, just drop us the beat…” It helps that by the time the song was coming out the band had already signed to Hopeless Records, but it was a sentiment that they had carried and would continue to carry throughout their career. And they’ve made good on that promise. From humble pop punkers playing Ram’s Head to worldwide headliners, All Time Low has transformed, carrying a genre that some argue is dead to wider audiences and larger appeal. No small task, it’s now worth examining how four guys with a penchant for dick jokes got so far. I mean who needs another Blink-182? Let’s start at the beginning…
1. The Three Words to Remember in Dealing with the End EP
Since it’s important to always remember where one came from, here is the fifteen minutes in 2004 that started it all. All Time Low’s first “record” of sorts. There was technically an All Time Low Demo before this, but who remembers it?
2. “Sticks, Stones and Techno”
The band released The Party Scene in 2005 of Emerald Moon Records, which they signed to the previous year. Several songs, including “The Party Scene,” “Lullabies,” “Break Out Break Out,” “Running from Lions,” and “The Girl’s A Straight-Up Hustler” would be re-recorded for All Time Low’s proper debut Put Up or Shut Up. A stand out track from the album is “Circles,” but the highlight for this early effort is a song that the band pretty openly tries to bury because it’s just…well, take a listen.
3. “Time to Break Up” (cover)
Next comes proof. Proof that the band really was an amalgamation of Blink 182 covers in the beginning as they suggest in interviews. The band recorded “Time to Break Up” for 2005’s compilation album Pacific Ridge Record’s Heroes of Pop-Punk. Fun fact: Four Year Strong were also on the record, covering Blink’s “Dumpweed.”
4. “Coffeeshop Soundtrack”
Before the members of All Time Low even had their high school diplomas, Hopeless signed the band. All Time Low then released Put Up or Shut Up in the summer of 2006. “Coffeeshop Soundtrack,” a single off the record, is quintessential, straightened hair, early aughts pop/punk rock.
5. “Dear Maria, Count Me In”
In 2007, the band released their follow-up So Wrong, It’s Right, working with Matt Squire, a genre-favorite producer. The album’s second single, “Dear Maria, Count Me In,” made it onto pretty regular circulation on MTV and all of a sudden All Time Low wasn’t just a favorite hometown band anymore. Note how they’re clearly still in their scene phase.
6. “Lost in Stereo”
Their next album 2009’s Nothing Personal was created with a small hoard of producers. The band worked with everyone from Butch Walker to S*A*M & Sluggo to Matt Squire again and all those textures can be heard on the resulting record. From the techno-tinged “Too Much” to the slow-er jam “Therapy,” it’s clear the band is maturing in different directions. “Lost in Stereo” is All Time Low holding on to their party-boy roots. Later that year they left Hopeless.
The band put out Straight to DVD in 2010 and were included on the Almost Alice, the Alice in Wonderland reboot soundtrack. For a song included in a passable Tim Burton movie, “Painting Flowers” wasn’t bad. After some extensive touring and a label move to Interscope Records, the band released Dirty Work in 2011. This album find the bands at even more of a crossroads than before. Thematically still All Time Low, but increasingly autotuned, Dirty Work is still cheeky, catchy, just more pop rock than punk rock or pop punk.
8. “For Baltimore”
In 2012, All Time Low left Interscope for Hopeless and released Don’t Panic, which was quickly followed by an extended version titled, Don’t Panic: It’s Longer Now. This second take on the record included “A Love Like War,” which was recorded with Vic Fuentes of Pierce the Veil. The song is another favorite for a wider audience outside the fan base. However, the band’s ode to their hometown is Don’t Panic‘s best song by far. The other songs are good, a bit heavier than their previous albums, but this is both a sonic and emotional return to a more punk-rock stance.
9. “Something’s Gotta Give”
Their biggest record to date, Future Hearts, came out in 2015. Working with John Feldmann, Joel Madden, and Mark Hoppus, the band came up with a record more refined and matured than ever before. Some say this is the point at which the band definitively ~sold out, having shifted away from the pureness of fast-paced songs about drinking and girls. Other’s look at songs like “Kicking & Screaming” and note the band’s ability to continually produce punchy tunes. As much as it may be formulaic and perhaps pandering to the radio, the record, especially tracks like “Something’s Gotta Give,” is undeniably catchy.
10. “Dirty Laundry”
Slotted for release in June 2017, the band’s newest record Last Young Renegade sounds at least so far like a departure. The band’s first single “Dirty Laundry,” is a love song of sorts, but with much more than just the clean four-piece formula that the band has largely stuck with. The band has been spending increasing time behind the booth while in studio, tweaking their songs and changing their sound, and this record, which is All Time Low’s first album on Fueled by Ramen appears to be the amalgamation of those early experiments.
So how different will this new record be? The tracklisting sounds familiar enough (based on it’s title alone “Drugs & Candy” sounds like a song All Time Low could’ve written for Dirty Work.) Although, there are other elements that make it seem like All Time Low is truly striking out, away from the box they’ve been in. Another song, “Ground Control,” will apparently featured Tegan and Sara. The Canadian indie-pop duo may have been pretty full-tilt pop in their last release…but who would’ve foreseen the pairing? All Time Low wrote “A Party Song (The Walk of Shame)” and “Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don’t)” and are just generally known for their antics. Could it be that All Time Low is really, truly growing-up? Well, it might not be all that bad. Afterall, Green Day followed up their extended youths with American Idiot. Who knows what Last Young Renegade will mean for the band and their long term. Guess we’ll have to wait until summer.
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