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All Time Low

To many over the age of consent, American punk-pop or emo-pop is all a matter of repetitive strain injury on the ears, or even “I remember the days when punk was rock”. One can put the blame squarely at the doorsteps of platinum shifters GREEN DAY, BLINK-182, and, of late, FALL OUT BOY, while other pretenders to the throne push out nothing but looks and shout-y schoolyard songs about girls and growing up. Formed in Towson, Baltimore in Maryland, ALL TIME LOW fit into this energetic emo-pop genre in spades; another combo to ease nicely into the size 8 gym-shoes of the likes of The GET UP KIDS, NEW FOUND GLORY, SAVES THE DAY, et al…
From 2003, Messrs Alex Gaskarth (vocals, rhythm guitar), Jack Barakat (lead guitar, vocals), Zack Merrick (bass, vocals) and Rian Dawson (drums, percussion), struck a chord with the youth of the day; live shows during their school breaks ensuring the band were picking up support all around the East Coast and beyond. Inking a deal at local independent Emerald Moon, ALL TIME LOW were on a high when an EP, `The Three Words To Remember In Dealing With The End’, led to debut album THE PARTY SCENE (2005) {*6}, and further tours sharing the spotlight with MOTION CITY SOUNDTRACK, PLAIN WHITE T’S, among others. At the time, all 17 and pumped up ready to take on the globe, the catchy hook-lines of tracks `Hometown Heroes, National Nobodies’, `Break Out! Break Out!’, `The Girl’s A Straight Up Hustler’ and the tongue-in-cheek(y) `Sticks, Stones And Techno’, bounced around without letting up.
Home to a number of emo/punk acts, Hopeless Records came a-knocking in March 2006, by which time the lads were gearing up to graduate from high school; the 7-song `Put Up Or Shut Up’ (released that July) bought time and was basically re-recordings from their stint at Emerald Moon. A subsequent Warped Tour yielded more sensitive songs that were to emerge on the band’s Top 75 breakthrough set, SO WRONG, IT’S RIGHT (2007) {*6}. Described in some journals as heart-on-the-sleeve hardcore, in others as coy clones of FALL OUT BOY, pass marks (C+ only) would go to `This Is How We Do’, `Remembering Sunday’, `Holly (Would You Turn Me On?)’ and airplay hit `Dear Maria, Count Me In’.
Adding the odd sweary word to their syrupy punk-pop – e.g. `Weightless’ – probably raised the odd giggle or snigger from their teenage fanclub on Top 5! NOTHING PERSONAL (2009) {*6}. Auto-Tuned vocals, cliché after cliché and nauseating McFLY-meets-BUSTED hooks were the order of the day; dip in if you must to `Lost In Stereo’, `Stella’ and the modern-day idiom dilemma `Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don’t)’.
While the aptly-named live-in-concert STRAIGHT TO DVD (2010) {*6} – recorded at Hammerstein Ballroom, NY, the previous December – had all the above and a few surprises, both DIRTY WORK (2011) {*6} and DON’T PANIC (2012) {*6} continued onwards and upwards in terms of sales. If there was something to write home about, it would certainly include Gaskarth’s collaborations with WEEZER’s Rivers Cuomo on `I Feel Like Dancin’’ or with FALL OUT BOY’s Patrick Stump on `Outlines’.
Inevitably, with transatlantic success for both studio sets, ALL TIME LOW hit an all time high with sixth set, the chart-scaling FUTURE HEARTS (2015) {*7}. Reunited with Midas touch producer John Feldmann, the sticky thumping drumming had been waylaid to reveal a slick and mature vox for the underrated Gaskarth. Guest spots for BLINK-182’s Mark Hoppus (on `Tidal Waves’) and GOOD CHARLOTTE’s Joel Madden (for `Bail Me Out’) were plus points for a group now in their mid-20s and ready to cross the barred boundaries of balladry (`Missing You’) or in pop-disco fusion (`Dancing With A Wolf’).
In support of the said album, live at Wembley sequel STRAIGHT TO DVD II: PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE HEARTS (2016) {*6} was as good as any a document to fire up their trending teenage audience.
2017’s transatlantic Top 10 set, LAST YOUNG RENEGADE {*6}, made inroads to FALL OUT BOY’s programmed pop-punk pattern. A rebellious and raucous band for teenage tearaways who baulk at play-listing their day-glo dad’s “real” raw punk collection, ATL’s throwaway chip-paper pop would certainly irk any music fan who can’t earlobe music not turned up to the max and beaming from their noisy-new silver-spooned automobile; case-in-point the album’s best bits: `Life Of The Party’, Nice2KnoU’ and `Ground Control’ (not even the appearance of TEGAN AND SARA could save the latter).
American idiots still trying to push out the envelope of that elusive fourth chord, persevering punks ALL TIME LOW extended their milky-white UHT sell-by-date with umpteenth set, WAKE UP, SUNSHINE (2020) {*6}. But at least they’d abandoned any attempts at becoming a bona fide mainstream act; that’s if one could ignore loss-leader singles `Some Kind Of Disaster’, `Sleeping In’ and `Getaway Green’. The transatlantic Top 30 record had its moments; few and far between as they were, but in the collaborative `Favorite Place’ (featuring The Band Camino) and the cock-sure `Monsters’ (alongside rapper blackbear), ATL stretched themselves a tad. And yo-yoing on the precipice of rock’n’roll; they were indeed The MONKEES to GREEN DAY’s PRETTY THINGS, one could anticipate live-in-concert potential for star track, `Trouble Is’.
© MC Strong/MCS Apr2015-Apr2020

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