Triumphant return to form
Since its inception as a blink-182 cover band in 2003, Baltimore natives All Time Low have been one of the most consistent and popular pop-punk bands on the scene. The group first gained notoriety in 2007 with earnest, hook-heavy songs like “Dear Maria Count Me In” and “Six Feet Under the Stars.” Their real breakout came two years later with the album Nothing Personal and its blistering lead single “Weightless,” which cemented them as one of the genre’s giants.
Over the last decade, the band has released a string of albums attempting to strike a balance between pop experimentation and punk energy, ones where they can expand on their core sound whilst still keeping music’s most unforgiving fans happy. Unfortunately, they veered a little too far into pop territory for their fans’ tastes with their most recent album, 2017’s Last Young Renegade (though critics enjoyed it). After some badly needed time off, they’ve returned with a new release, Wake Up Sunshine.
Overlooking the irony of the fact that their most summery record in years comes on the heels of a pandemic-related lockdown, Wake Up Sunshine is a definite return to All Time Low’s original form. Part of this could be attributed to the fact that the band wrote the album together under one roof for the first time in a while, as opposed to lead singer Alex Gaskarth writing on his own and sending the group demos. It’s Gaskarth who brought a lot of the pop influences to All Time Low’s sound, as in the last few years he’s been writing for bands like 5 Seconds of Summer and started an indie-pop side project with Mark Hoppus called Simple Creatures. There’s still plenty of that here, but the band’s roots are definitely much stronger than on previous releases.
The first half of the album brings the pop-punk back to the forefront. Opener “Some Kind of Disaster” starts mellow, before launching into a massive chorus with the band’s trademark self-deprecating lyrics. “Sleeping In” and “Melancholy Kaleidoscope” hum with speedy energy reminiscent of pop punk’s glory days, while the title track boasts a surprising amount of garage-rock bravado underneath the polished exterior.
The back half is where things start to get a little darker and more interesting. Rapper blackbear spits a verse on the eerie, foot-stomping “Monsters,” while The Band CAMINO adds vocal stylings on top of the shiny “Favorite Place.” The hidden gem is “Safe,” which combines modern-pop sounding verses with the album’s most anthemic, arena-ready chorus.
It’s evident that the balance between pop and punk All Time Low have been chasing their entire career has been found on Wake Up Sunshine, with the result being their best album in years. Old-school fans will welcome them back with open arms, while newer ones can still find plenty of modern flourishes to appreciate. In a scary and unpredictable time, All Time Low has delivered a much-needed dose of sunshine.