All Time Low brings complexity to “Don’t Panic”

Alex Gaskarth and All Time Low released their fifth full-length album, "Don't Panic", this fall.Photo by Mary Hartrich

Alex Gaskarth and All Time Low released their fifth full-length album, “Don’t Panic,” this fall.
Photo by Mary Hartrich

This fall, the Baltimore-based- pop punk band All Time Low released their fifth full-length studio album, “Don’t Panic.” After their last album “Dirty Work” was released by major label, Interscope, ATL made the decision to return to their original label, Hopeless Records, to record “Don’t Panic.”

The album, which debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200, is a fast-paced and catchy record that stands out from ATL’s previous four albums while retaining the band’s hopeful, pop-rock sound. Although All Time Low’s lyrics can at times be somewhat simple – “Gimme, gimme my motivation. Gimme, gimme my dreams…you gotta let me be me” – they are no doubt relatable, which is what has made All Time Low fans feel so connected to the band.

Something that stood out on “Don’t Panic” was the improved instrumentation compared to the band’s past releases. All Time Low’s songs have always been catchy, but the songs on “Don’t Panic” are more complex instrumentally which makes the listening experience more interesting and shows that the band has improved over the years.

A standout track is “Outlines”, which was co-written by Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy and features Jason Vena of Acceptance, a band who parted ways in 2006. The lyrics and vocal style have a very obvious Fall Out Boy influence that which only adds to the complexity of the music and reminds the listener that music is never one-dimensional. A fast-paced, rolling drum pattern during the verses gives the song an edgy sound that makes you wonder where the song will go from there. The chorus is catchy as usual, but the lyrics are thoughtful and motivational:

I’m twice the man that I was yesterday.

Half the time I’m a world away,

A flicker of a soul casting silhouettes,

On the face of a town that could not get me to stay.

The song is about making your mark in the world. For All Time Low, this means impacting the pop-rock genre in a positive way and leaving music behind that will be remembered for a long time to come. Patrick Stump knows from experience that talent and perseverance can help any small town band achieve huge success.

The album’s opener “Long Live the Reckless and the Brave” has a very inspirational sound with lyrics about leaving behind those who don’t believe in you in order to make something of yourself. Another highlight of the album is “So Long Soldier,” a song about Alex’ move from the UK to the United States when he was a child. The song features Anthony Raneri of Bayside on vocals and is fast and intense from the very beginning. The guitar riff at the beginning of the song doesn’t really sound like any other songs on the record. I happen to be a sucker for the cheesy lyrics, so two of my favorites on the album are “Backseat Serenade” and “If These Sheets Were the States.” The former is about rekindling a lost love while the latter is about dealing with the emotional stress that accompanies a long distance relationship. Other highlights include “For Baltimore,” an homage to the band’s hometown, and “Somewhere in Neverland”.

“Don’t Panic” definitely has its high points. It is a catchy, well-written album that is ATL’s best to date. The band’s improvement is obvious, but they have not strayed too far from the sound that first put them on the map. This is the ATL album that can turn skeptics into fans.

I joined front man Alex Gaskarth on ATL’s tour bus to get the story behind “Don’t Panic.”  Here are some hightlights, or watch the video at the bottom of the page to see the full interview.

• On the artwork: “When we came up with the album title – “Don’t Panic” – we sort of wanted to go with a theme that was like 2012 is supposed to be the end of the world. We sort of made a joke out of that, running with that metaphor.”

• On switching labels: “We left Hopeless originally with no bad blood; it was just a new opportunity for us when Interscope came to us. It kind of got worked out so that everybody was happy when we went. Unfortunately it just didn’t work out from there. Interscope just didn’t really handle the band the right way. So when we left, when we parted ways with them, we had the option to do anything, but going back to Hopeless was a decision that we made just because we felt like that was the best family. That’s where we belong.”

On recording with Anthony Raneri of Bayside and Cassadee Pope of Hey Monday and now “The Voice”: “We wanted to have some friends involved. There was nothing really overly thought out about it. Once the whole thing was done we just kind of sent the songs to people and if they were into it, we had ‘em on.”

• On the Peter Pan-inspired songs “Somewhere in Neverland” and “Stay Awake: “I’ve always just had a drawing to the ideas and the concepts of Peter Pan, mostly to do with physically growing up and sort of staying young in your heart and soul. So that’s always sort of spoken to me. Time moves very quickly and you’re limited to how much time you have around so I think it’s really a metaphor for staying young on the inside and just enjoying life.”

• On the song “For Baltimore”: “It’s like falling in love within your city. We have such an affinity to where we’re from. I recently have fallen back in love with the city of Baltimore.”

• On the overall message of the album: “Be confident in who you are and push through the B.S. We had a great learning experience on this record of just learning to be confident in ourselves and learning to do what we love and not really let outside influences affect the way that we write and (the way that we) are.”

—   Mary Hartrich, LSY! music editor

Click here to read Mary’s interview with ATL from Vans Warped Tour 2012.


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