They may have all grown up now, apparently, but in a sharp downturn from 2015's Future Hearts, the serious side of All Time Low falls flat against what Last Young Renegade supposedly aims for.
It’s been almost an entire decade since the release of All Time Low’s So Wrong, It’s Right, the album which catapulted them into pop-punk history and marked them as solid icons of the soon-to-be ballooning movement with a sharp cough and a song about a stripper. Since then, the Baltimore boys have taken life in the spotlight by the horns, releasing a whopping seven studio records, and two live albums and for months now they’ve been hyping up their latest release – which makes it all the more substantial of a shame that Last Young Renegade just really blows.
With the release of ‘Dirty Laundry’ in February suggesting “a darker, more evolved All Time Low” whilst still carrying a “vague sense of colourless insipidity,” it isn’t surprising to find its choice as lead single to be rather a calculated one. As mindless and blank as it is, ‘Dirty Laundry’ still stands as one of the album’s strongest peaks, brandishing at least a hint of ingenuity the dregs of the record pale in comparison to. In fact, with songs like ‘Drugs & Candy,’ ‘Good Times,’ and ‘Nightmares,’ it’s easy to see why they were placed so far apart in the album’s runtime: hit the shuffle button on Spotify and you risk the majority of the album blending into one watery half-hour record. Think ‘Jesus Of Suburbia’ on repeat, but painted with eight layers of vanilla.
I’m honestly a little confused about where the passion and fervour of Future Hearts has gone in the two years since its release. Where’s the scathing bite of ‘Dancing With A Wolf’? The grit and heat of ‘Kids In The Dark’? The depth of ‘Missing You’? The determination of ‘Something’s Gotta Give’? Instead, we have ‘Good Times’ and ‘Ground Control,’ which both offer something of a wave of crassly-forged nostalgia set to the beat of something resembling accessible. The majority of the album sounds a lot like it was mastered with the help of a high school keyboard set to its sound effect mode, randomly pushing buttons to find the right distortion set to slightly differing pitches and framing little else but frontman Alex Gaskarth’s impressive vocals.
Its eponymous opening track does, luckily, beg to differ, feeling much more like the perfect combination of wistful lyrics and anthemic riffs All Time Low typically cultivates: harking back to songs like Dirty Work’s ‘Time Bomb’ and Nothing Personal’s ‘Lost In Stereo’, it makes for a brilliant opener. Unfortunately, with what’s remaining offering little to maintain the momentum, the song is snowed under, left as peripheral to the album in both positioning and sound. And, whilst ‘Nice2KnoU’ suggests a resurgence of much-needed grit, it ultimately fails with fury only just out of its reach.
But All Time Low is not alone in their evolution. As Linkin Park, Fall Out Boy, and Paramore have proved in recent months (to much heated debate), the move to a less guitar-heavy sound doesn’t have to render them bland. Whilst there’s an array of obvious differences between Fall Out Boy’s ‘Young And Menace’ and All Time Low’s ‘Life Of The Party’ (and an army of angry fans to go with it), there’s little to say that the latter reeks far less of excitement, grit, and unadulterated heat that marks their shared musical circles than the former. All these pop-punk icons are growing up now, but something’s been lost along the way with Last Young Renegade. Here’s to me hoping this is as restricted as it gets for All Time Low, and here’s to them for album eight: honestly, it can only be up from here.
Last Young Renegade is out now via Fueled By Ramen