By Caroline Meister
Even if you’re not a fan of pop punk, you probably have heard of All Time Low. The four-piece consisting of Alex Gaskarth (vocals and rhythm guitar), Jack Barakat (lead guitar and backing vocals), Zachary Merrick (bass and backing vocals), and Rian Dawson (drums) have been rocking out since they were in high school. They’re all nearing their mid-twenties, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve quieted down. The band just released their seventh studio album, Last Young Renegade, on Friday, June 2nd. Once a band has been around a while, one begins to worry that either a) they will change so drastically that what they once were can’t be found or b) they won’t change and will become stagnant, boring. These reasons were why I was a little apprehensive about listening to the album, but I should have known better.
All Time Low blew me out of the water with this album. Out of all their albums, this one definitely has the most thought behind it. I noticed a common theme of growing up and leaving home, especially with a focus on high school kids. The songs also center around memories, how people change (for better and for worse), leaving this old town (which isn’t a new concept for most pop punk bands), and of course, the lasts. With the album release lining up perfectly with graduations across the United States and the world, All Time Low have cohesively created an experience that will tug on the heartstrings of all their fans, but especially ones at transitions in their lives.
Another surprise is the incorporation of more electronics, specifically keyboards, and greater production aspects. It can be overwhelming or feel like pop music when a pop punk band tries to keep up with the changing times in the music industry, but All Time Low are staying steady at the helm. They manage to maintain their pop punk roots with lyrics and instrumentation (still utilizing their instruments) while updating their sound to gain new fans and keep up with the industry.
Although some may claim that this addition makes them “more mainstream,” and while I agree that a good majority of these songs could actually make it onto the top 40, All Time Low are not selling out. They are still the boys from Baltimore who crafted such pop punk mainstays as “Therapy,” “Dear Maria,” and “Remembering Sunday.” They’re just growing up, like all of their fans, and they’ve written about it, resulting in Last Young Renegade. What would you rather want: a band that always stays the same or a band that continues to reinvent itself while holding on to its roots?
Also, can we talk about Alex Gaskarth’s voice? The evolution of his voice from their very first album to now is incredible. This album really showcases his vocal range and his talent (not to mention the backing vocals supplied by Merrick and Barakat). I was listening to one of their earliest albums, So Wrong, It’s Right, right before listening to Last Young Renegade, and the difference is truly astounding. If you don’t grow as an artist, you won’t continue to be successful, so hats off to you Alex.
My favorite songs on the album in no particular order are: “Good Times,” “Dirty Laundry,” “Nice2KnoU,” and “Last Young Renegade.”