Sound — 4
In the past several years, we've seen a growing divide within the pop punk subgenre between bands that emphasize the punk half in their sound, and bands that emphasize the pop half in their sound. With the latter subset gaining more prominence simply from veteran pop punk bands expanding from their root style (Paramore, Simple Plan, Good Charlotte, etc.), All Time Low have been making that pivot slowly but surely. Having become a poster band for the pop punk/emo scene with true-to-form albums like 2007's "So Wrong, It's Right" and 2009's "Nothing Personal," the Baltimore quartet have been integrating more pop characteristics into their sound in their more recent albums, heard in 2011's "Dirty Work" and 2015's "Future Hearts."
Now on their seventh album, "Last Young Renegade," All Time Low are all but entirely ready to ditch their pop punk base for a sound that mainly taps into Top 40 pop. With the only songs on the album still maintaining a pop punk style being the upbeat "Nice2KnoU" and the steady eponymous song, the majority of the album shows the band leaning more on big production value, primarily shown in synth-dominated songs like "Dirty Laundry," or "Ground Control," which features Tegan and Sara singing the chorus.
Aside from the point that this is a style change that makes All Time Low generally sound like any other rock-turned-pop band like Maroon 5 or OneRepublic, the biggest disservice this pivot does is deprive All Time Low of their instrumental strengths. Synthesized rhythms relieve drummer Rian Dawson and bassist Zack Merrick of their duties more often than not, heard in the hip hop style of "Life Of The Party," or the EDM-influenced songs of "Good Times" and "Dark Side Of Your Room," and though lead guitarist Jack Barakat still manages to contribute some feasible guitar riffs a few times, whether in "Drugs & Candy," "Nightmares" or "Afterglow," it's far from his full potential. As for frontman Alex Gaskarth, his singing still remains a strong sonic beacon throughout, though with occasional moments of too much reverb, or the DJ Snake-style vocal sampling used in "Good Times" and "Life Of The Party," the vocal element of the album also becomes encumbered by an overcompensating production value.
Lyrics — 7
Similarly to the lyrics in "Future Hearts," Gaskarth and company continue reflecting upon their life as All Time Low in "Last Young Renegade," but in contrast to the previous album focusing more on the arduous grind of their unsigned years chasing their dream of being rock stars, "Last Young Renegade" focuses more on the simple joys of living that dream. With the carefree, live-in-the-now disposition reminisced upon in "Good Times" ("When we laughed, we cried / Those were the days, we owned the nights / Locked away, lost in time") and "Afterglow" ("Alright, we can go all night / 'Cause we got a whole lot of fight in us / And I see a long road that we gotta follow / Before tomorrow catches up"), as well as in the instant romance of "Nice2KnoU" ("This night is far from over / Far from over / Let's get carried away"), Gaskarth's fond reflections of the past is as much a yearning for lost youth as it is an appreciation for the hedonism fleeting by on a nightly basis.
However, Gaskarth also shows his own threshold with a life lived as a blur of debauchery in "Life Of The Party" ("In a sea of strangers / I can't find me anymore"), and from pining over an old flame in the eponymous song ("You were my last young renegade heartache / How could I let you / How could I let you go?"), to stressing over long-distance love in "Ground Control" ("My systems are critical / Gotta find my way back to you / Feels like I'm drifting alone"), it's easy to see Gaskarth wouldn't be able to live that kind of life forever, and is better off cherishing that era from afar.
Overall Impression — 4
Given their past few albums inching their way closer to a pop sound, All Time Low's strong commitment to that in "Last Young Renegade" was simply a matter of when it would happen, and with every seasoned band wrestling with the choice of sticking to what they know or moving on to new things, it's a shift that's understandable. However, this leap into pop territory shows All Time Low renouncing their tried and true strengths as pop punk musicians and failing to gain any new strengths in return. Ultimately, their step onto the mainstream pop path in "Last Young Renegade" blurs in with all the other pop bands that have walked the same route, resulting in All Time Low sounding less like themselves and more like everyone else.