When we look back on All Time Low‘s musical career to date, the Baltimore pop punk four-piece have constantly churned out some of the catchiest songs in their genre. They’re the one band who’ve never really taken an extended break or hiatus and while a music vacation might have been a nice idea after some questionable records (ahem… Dirty Work), you can be assured that the guys in All Time Low are doing things on their terms. They’re strongly passionate about their art and one of (if not) the hardest working band in the game. While for me personally, they haven’t released a solid album since 2015’s Future Hearts, and Last Young Renegade (2017) was semi-decent in hindsight but didn’t quite captivate me. So going into Wake Up Sunshine, I had high hopes in that they would restore my love for the band and their infectious brand of pop punk.
Wake Up Sunshine begins with ‘Some Kind Of Disaster’ and it’s the comeback single we’ve been yearning for. Leading with the line “I’m a liar, I’m a cynic / I’m a sinner, I’m a saint / I’m a loser, I’m a critic / I’m the ghost of my mistakes”, the band are displaying their battle scars loud and proud, quietly wishing the same for their listeners. It’s a loud, heart strung anthem for those who’ve lived a life full of adventure and/or regret, but these don’t make you any less of a person than the next. ‘Sleeping In’ sees the epic return of rigorous pop punky riffs, a staple during All Time Low’s breakout years. This song instantly took me back to the So Wrong It’s Right and Nothing Personal days, and I’m sitting here thinking “yes!! All Time Low is back baby!” all while listening to that eponymous Blink-182 like riff, and I have a strong feeling this is Song of the Year material. However, following track ‘Getaway Green’ also has Song of the Year potential. Explosive punk riffs, intertwined with that pop/rock sound and tongue in cheek, catchy lyrics is how I fell in love with this band all those years ago. The band seemed to have really reconnected with their younger selves again, and seeing as Nothing Personal is my all time favourite album from the band, they’re nailing it so far.
The catchy nostalgic hooks continue with ‘Melancholy Kaleidoscope’, which sees All Time Low back in their prime element. I can’t help but notice they’ve added in a memorable lyrical metaphor though here, only in the form of “Light a fire in the coldest hearts, fillin’ up the halls // That’s another lit match to burn” (OG fans, remember that infamous line in ‘A Party Song’ –“Lit a match just to heat things up, but I got more than I bargained for”). The relatable feels are all too real on ‘Trouble Is’ and is guaranteed to bring back familiar emotions back in your mind. It’s an ode to that ex-flame you keep going back to but you know you shouldn’t. I could play this song over and over repeatedly, and those emotions still wouldn’t disappear. “The trouble is, you’re a part of me.”
Coming into the title track of the album, ‘Wake Up Sunshine’ is a song that speaks to your inner self, a mental health check if you will. It’s the wake up call we all yearned for in this current day and age. Sonically, it’s the music All Time Low are aiming for; a band with universal reach. Finishing with the line, “are you living well? Are you living for yourself?” this song (and album might I add) is a call-to-arms for people everywhere to check in with their head. ‘Monsters’ initially gave me a new-age Fall Out Boy kinda vibe, and I wasn’t convinced at first. However, after giving this track a few more chances, it ended up being quite enjoyable. This track was the perfect opportunity for the band to experiment musically, without straying too far from their range. The addition of Blackbear presents an opportunity for the band to gain some universal reach, it’s very alt/pop and they didn’t completely lose themselves here. Albeit the interlude label, the band begins to travel in a more sombre note from here and ‘Pretty Venom’ definitely feels more like the pop ballad of the record. OG fans may write this off immediately, but I reckon everyone needs to be more open to interpretation with this track.
It’s no lie that All Time Low have always aimed to enter the mainstream pop arena in recent years, and ‘Favourite Place’ is a great example of this. They’ve collaborated with US act The Band Camino for this song. While The Band Camino have yet to enter mainstream radio stations here in Australia, these guys have gained huge traction overseas with their pop/rock tendencies., making themselves leaders behind 5 Seconds of Summer, and if you have time, definitely check out their album, tryhard. Balancing synth-pop effects with soaring anthemic rock chords, ‘Favourite Place’ is a loving gesture to your significant other. From its calming, soothing nature to the soaring stadium rock feels towards the end, it’s a solid progression from All Time Low, and this follows on to the next track. ‘Safe’ feels much more like familiar territory, channelling a similar tone to the more sombre tracks of Nothing Personal, and I sense that this song will make itself ever so popular in due course (like ‘Time Bomb’ did back in the day).
It’s pretty obvious by now that the latter part of Wake Up Sunshine lacks some oomph and pop punk energy. However, what the band has done on this half of the album is focus much of their pent up energy to writing empowering, catchy lyrics and boy oh boy, they have definitely nailed the songwriting throughout the album. ‘January Gloom (Seasons Pt. 1)’ feels like an edgier, new age All Time Low, and they get even edgier down the track. ‘Clumsy’ rejuvenates new life into the music with its groovy, danceable beat and therefore makes for an absolute standout of a track. This track is a game changer for the genre, and is solid proof why All Time Low are leaders on their own. Alex Gaskarth channels his inner Oasis on ‘Glitter and Crimson’ for an epic rock ballad. This song is going to sit at the top of many fans’ favourite songs, and will be a holistic standing ovation at future live shows.
The upbeat, danceable riffs return once more on ‘Summer Daze (Seasons Pt. 2)’ but on a lighthearted, poppier tone. Feeling like some obscure Good Charlotte track, it definitely adds some alternative edge to Wake Up Sunshine. The band wraps up the record with a quirky synth pop track. ‘Basement Noise’ is a reflective story of the band’s past and their memories, and it feels like they’re asking us “where do we go from here?” It’s a wholesome finish to an album that ends with standalone vocals singing “we’re just stupid boys making basement noise in the basement.”
Bravo, All Time Low. You’ve managed to reignite my love for you once more, and in the best way possible. Wake Up Sunshine captures the band’s youthful energy towards pop punk ever so effortlessly, whilst also rejuvenating new life into an edgier version of themselves. The band seemed to have lost their essence in recent years, however they’ve managed to rediscover themselves once more and in hindsight have pushed out some of their best material to date. Wake Up Sunshine is a rollercoaster of highs and lows, mirroring the portrait of life itself. While you’re listening, make sure you check in with yourself too: are you living well? Are you living for yourself?
Rating: 9.5 / 10
author: Tamara May