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Back on top – All Time Low: Don’t Panic; A Review

October 17, 2012

All Time Low have long been one of my bands of choice. Songs like “Dear Maria, Count Me In” and “Six Feet Under The Stars” from So Wrong It’s Right have been highly ranked in my iTunes most played list for as long as I’ve had my current laptop, and even before that my dinosaur of a PC gave them plenty of airtime as well. The Baltimore band’s infectious pop-punk is difficult to find fault with, and their latest album is no exception. Don’t Panic is catchy, with memorable lyrics that you just can’t help but sing along to after a few listens and instrumental that makes my musical spine tingle in harmonic glee.

As the album opens with “The Reckless and the Brave”, I was instantly transported to something reminiscent of Greenday around the time of American Idiot. Thankfully, that impression didn’t last (American Idiot isn’t my favourite Greenday album…) but it gives you a sense of the kind of leagues All Time Low are playing in these days.

After Don’t Panic opened with such a cracker of a tune, I wasn’t expecting to like the few tracks that follow. It’s unfortunate that one comes to expect this of albums, but generally if the opening track is good, the few after (normally 2,3 and 4) are a bit flat, the better “filler” material the band has cobbled together to pad out the gaps between the singles they plan to release. “Backseat Serenade”, though, is great! After a slightly questionable start, the chorus just blew me away. “If These Sheets Were States” is a little weaker, but still a pretty good, upbeat tune to keep the momentum of the album going and leads really nicely into “Somewhere In Neverland”. In my opinion, this track should definitely be one of the leading tracks from this album. Lyrically, it’s great. There’s just the right amount of allusion to Peter Pan to escape being cheesy, it’s upbeat, insanely catchy and I can’t stop singing it.

“So Long, Soldier” is different to the first four tracks of Don’t Panic. The pounding, relentless drums give it an aggression that isn’t present in the happy-go-lucky opening of the album. This slightly different tone doesn’t continue, though. “The Irony of Choking on a Lifesaver”, which is, by the way, my favourite of all the track names on this album, returns to the catchy, upbeat, sing-a-long-able theme that opens the album. This is followed by “Live and Let Go”, which in my head before I heard it I had pegged as a gentle, acoustic track to give a little respite from the brilliant madness of the opening six tracks. But it’s not – it’s smashy, loud, and just great. “Outlines” and “Thanks To You” continue with only a slight slowing of pace and still a great deal of catchy lyrics and bouncy instrumental. This is the end of nine tracks into the 12-track strong album, so I was starting to wonder if there would be any let up from this amazing bombardment of infectious pop punk in the form of the inclusion of a conventional acoustic track.

Then comes “For Baltimore”, which starts acoustically, but doesn’t last. I was so expecting an acoustic track at precisely this point that I was really glad when the electrics and bass and drums kicked in – it’s nice to be proven wrong and to find yourself listening to a band that challenge your expectations while paying quite a nice homage to their hometown. I understand “For Baltimore” has been released as the second single from Don’t Panic, which pleases me considerably as it’s a great tune. Of course, that means we’ve now had 10 tracks of virtually uninterrupted energetic pop punk. The next track HAS to be a bit calmer, right?

Wrong. “Paint You Wings” has love song written all over it, but it’s precisely the opposite in another delightful break from my expectations. This is one of my favourite tracks on Don’t Panic, certainly a rival to “Dear Maria…”, and I think it would sound fantastic live. Lyrically it’s brilliant – and the harmonies between vocals and instrumental are some of the best on the album.

“So Long And Thanks For All The Booze” rounds off Don’t Panic in a final flourish of pop-punk energy that has barely relented for the entire duration of the 40ish minute play-time. It makes for a pretty spectacular conclusion to an already very strong album, with a defiance in it (“you gotta let me be me”) that sums up the entire album for me – everywhere I was expecting a weak track or an acoustic number thrown in for good measure, All Time Low surprised me in the best way possible.

Don’t Panic is one of the strongest albums as an overall package that I’ve heard in a long time from any band, and is well worth a listen. The thing I love most about it is that, while it sounds amazing recorded, I can imagine it translating into a really great live show, and I can almost see myself in the crowd, surrounded by alternative kids bouncing around and singing along. Hell, I can almost smell the sweat. Thankfully, I can turn that “almost see” into “actually see” as All Time Low are touring in February 2013 (with the last night coinciding with my birthday – hint, hint Hopeless Records) and working their way round all the usual places – get checking your local O2 Academy website for dates (or if you’re in Nottingham, it’s Monday 11th Feb at Rock City)!

Don’t Panic was released by Hopeless Records on 9th October 2012 in the UK and can be bought on iTunes here.

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