on 16 July 2009
Following up a genre defining hit album like So Wrong, It's Right, is a colossal assignment. Fans and critics alike, care about what you put out; they scrutinize, criticize and/or idolize every riff, hook, and lyric.
Determined to surpass the bliss of their 2007 effort, Maryland pop punkers All Time Low return at the heart of summer, with their third album Nothing Personal, armed with the support of production powerhouses of Matt Squire (Boys Like Girls, Panic! At The Disco), Butch Walker (The Academy Is..., Avril Lavigne, Midtown), and David Bendeth (Paramore, Underoath, Madina Lake).
It's evident from the onset of "Weightless" that All Time Low have slightly tweaked their sound. First to be observed are the vocals. While remaining recognizable, vocalist Alex Gaskarth's voice undergoes an unusual, minor change; sounding noticeably higher. We are assured by Mr. Gaskarth himself, that his is `how he sings`, and not caused by vocal effects, which will be the inevitable allegation accompanying such a faultless vocal performance.
Furthermore, an experimental side to All Time Low is seen; with the band willing to try different structural approaches, and many songs see a departure from their previous, predominantly guitar driven sound, with many songs heavily integrating drums and synthesizers.
Nothing Personal begins as it aims to continue, with "Weightless"; a classic All Time Low song, with inviting lyrics and initially tame, yet intensifying instrumentals slowing surging towards a monumental, memorable chorus, featuring the best, most imaginative hooks the genre has to offer. Immediately after, is "Break Your Little Heart," an exuberant, self empowering revenge song, which stands out as an undoubted highlight, compiled with an inventive, quick witted introduction, followed by an irresistibly catchy chorus.
Question: Does Nothing Personal have a hit single? Answer: Yes, in the form of the suggestively titled "Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don't)". Composed and produced to pop perfection, the inescapable, contagious chorus looks set to propel All Time Low onto the radio. Gaskarth's songwriting abilities are reaffirmed in the upbeat "Stella";
"You're only happy when I'm wasted / I point my finger but I just can't place it, feels like like I'm falling in love alone, Stella would you take me home"
Sure, the song doesn't feature lyrical themes venturing far beyond their usual trio of GAP (Girls, Alcohol, Parties), but this is what All Time Low do so exceptionally well, better than any of their contemporaries. The album continues with "Sick Little Games," an honest relatable song which displays insecurities and fears, with regards to fame, followed by "Hello Brooklyn," a jovial `party' song, which is fatally scarred by the pointless naming of thirteen major world cities. Why?
It's around this stage that Nothing Personal becomes hit and miss. "Walls" is an exceptional song, depicting figurative `walls', which have been self imposed, preventing love. Emotion is felt here; this is obviously a very `personal' song. The album's low points start to arrive, with the repetitive and seemingly pointless "Too Much," and the intrusive and cliched "A Party Song (The Walk Of Shame)"; this is where All Time Low start to run low on ideas;
"Let's drink to feelings of temptation / you and I, we're a one night invitation"
The record concludes with "Therapy," an exquisite, optimistic ballad, reminiscent of "Remembering Sunday," which showcases Gaskarth's vocal ability.
Despite some possible minor reservations, Nothing Personal is the album most pop punk fans dreamed of. All Time Low have done it again; immaculate vocals, witty lyrics, thrilling riffs, and hooks as catchy as herpes (The band would know all about this - Nothing Personal). Looking beyond the impact on the pop punk scene, All Time Low could be pop punk's representative in the mainstream music world. They `could be a reason to stare'.