By: Rina Seegoolam
Since the single “Dear Maria, Count Me In” from their 2007 album So Wrong, It’s Right, All Time Low has established themselves in the pop-punk scene. After having their name published in many alternative rock magazines and websites, singer and guitarist Alex Gaskarth, guitarist Jack Barakat, bassist Zack Merrick and drummer Rian Dawson have decided to make their music accessible to a wider audience.
Armed with a new record deal from major label Interscope Records, the band entered the studio in 2010 to work on their fourth album Dirty Work. The clear goal of this album was to get radio airplay and take All Time Low into the world of mainstream music. For those reasons, they hired producer Mike Green, but also worked with an impressive team of writers and producers including Matt Squire (who produced the band’s last two studio albums), John Fields, Butch Walker, Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, Simple Plan’s Pierre Bouvier, and Chuck Comeau, while even calling in R&B producers Jacob and Daniel Luttrell, and The-Dream.
Many songs off Dirty Work follow the same structure as their debut single “I Feel Like Dancin’.” Its verses use light drumming to put the emphasis on vocals, and then the excitement is kicked up a notch for the guitars’ comings and goings during the chorus. Adding easily sing-able lyrics, “It doesn’t matter where / I don’t care if people stare / I feel like dancin’ tonight,” and a reference to singer Ke$ha, the song contains many ingredients to make it shamelessly successful. “Forget About It” and “Just The Way I’m Not” try the same recipe, but end up dull, lifeless and shallow, with the lyrics trying too hard to make the chorus memorable by rhyming “whoa-oh” with “know-oh,” “go-oh” and even “us-oh” in the latter track.
“No Idea,” a track co-written with The-Dream, and “Return The Favor,” a song co-written with the Luttrells (who worked with Flo-Rida, Enrique Iglesias, Toni Braxton) make All Time Low step out of their comfort zone by playing with R&B influences, while “That Girl” makes them dive deeper in pop. These songs are good for what the band is aiming for, but they also sound like pre-recorded musical packages offered to “rock” boy bands. The album showcases Gaskarth’s more polished voice, but does not measure up for fans of bold guitar riffs or loping, enthusiastic bass lines.
For fans of All Time Low’s punkier side, Dirty Work is not entirely worthless. “Guts” still satisfies the radio-ready criteria, but is also faster-paced and edgier, especially with the guitar solo and the addition of The Sounds’ Maja Ivarsson’s ethereal vocals. The Simple Plan-esque “Under A Paper Moon” also provides a break from the excess of boring pop. It has a more agitated rhythm supported by muffled guitar strings, and Gaskarth’s nervous voice returns and gradually transforms into screams.
Finally, the album ends with the surprising “Heroes,” a song that welcomes back Dawson’s frenetic drums and Gaskarth’s hoarse voice, to show how the album would sound if the band did not have the mainstream world in mind. Whether All Time Low used it as a mockery to their previous albums or an ode to their past, it is regrettable that they did not draw on this song’s energy to inspire the other tracks.
With Dirty Work, All Time Low wants to achieve what their previous albums did not. Without entirely trying to conform to something they are not, they modified their sound in the aim of making it more universally like-able. Some of their new songs will certainly reach more fans and attract more attention from mainstream media. Unfortunately in doing so, Dirty Work is doing a detriment to the spontaneity and vitality that previously made All Time Low appealing. The result is a tedious record that contains almost nothing musically challenging or exciting.
Release Date: June 7, 2011
Record Label: Interscope Records
For Fans Of: Simple Plan, Runner Runner, The All-American Rejects
Recommended Tracks: “Heroes” // “Under A Paper Moon” // “That Girl”
Official Website: http://www.alltimelowband.com
Purchase: Newbury Comics (Autographed) / Glamour Kills / iTunes / Amazon /