All Time Low is pop/rock band from Baltimore that released their first EP back in 2004 and has since released 4 albums and another EP, including this year’s effort, Dirty Work on Interscope records. The band has pretty successful considering they started out as a high school band made up of friends who wanted to play music influenced by New Found Glory (where their band name comes from) and Blink 182. However, as the band progressed they have slowly shifted from the pop punk roots to more of an overall pop sound. Due to the overall style shift and their success, many critics have called the band sellouts. While those claims are far fetched, there is no doubt the band is not playing music similar to that of the highly regarded 2006 EP, Put Up or Shut Up. The new release is made up of 12 songs in about 40 minutes run time. Depending on the version of the album, there are also several b-sides and renditions of old songs included as well.
The album starts off “Do You Want Me (Dead?)” and it is definitely a more mature-sounding rock song for the band, but overall it is upbeat and it works for an opener. It is not as good an opener as “Coffee Shop Soundtrack” or “This is How We Do” but it is still good. After the opener follows one of the first singles, “I Feel Like Dancin'” that features some writing from Rivers Cuomo (Weezer). It definitely has kind of a Weezer-esque vibe to it with its stop and go rhythm in the chorus. Save some of the lyrics in the second verse this song sounds like it could work in one of the newer Disney movies for some reason. Not the best song on the album, but the chorus is catchy and sticks in your head (for better or worse). “Forget About It” is a rather forgettable rock song that does not really capture the listener in and keep them wanting to listen further.
“Guts” is another mature rock song that features guest backup vocals from Maja Ivarsson (the Sounds). Considering the album as a whole it is one of the better songs, but it is really just an average song. It is better than the two singles, but there is no semblance of the punk roots here. The other single released is “Time Bomb” and this like the other single is a straight pop song. The verses are actually pretty good from a melody standpoint leading up to the chorus. However, the chorus is straight bubble gum pop and it is simply boring and uninteresting. “Just the Way I’m Not” is a song that features assistance from Butch Walker. This song features a chorus that is straight from the late ’80s early ’90s pop/rock songs. The transition from chorus to the bridge is a bit awkward, but the song is pretty catchy and was unexpected.
“Under a Paper Moon” and “Return the Favor” are both pretty uninteresting songs that leave something to be desired. “No Idea” has some promise and is better than the last two songs, but the chorus is just kind of bland. Next up is more of a mellow/ballad in “A Daydream Away” and is overall pretty boring and does not really grab the listener at all.
The last two songs on the label are easily the best two songs on the record. “That Girl” is the best straight pop song the band has written. Yes, it is more catchy than Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don’t). This is the song that should have been the lead single. This song is a perfect radio hit with the summertime in full swing. For those older fans that have been there from the beginning sitting and waiting for just one song with their punk roots, the closer, “Heroes” is it. This song probably could have worked on their first full length record, So Wrong It’s Right and is more polished from a musicianship standpoint as well. As noted previously, it is one of the top two songs; however, it really does not fit on Dirty Work. However, being an overall good song it is a welcome addition.
The thoughts after several spins is mostly indifference. Every release has had more and more pop influences and less of their pop punk roots. And that is fine as long as the songs are good. People and writers change, but the quality of songs should not be compromised. The record before, Nothing Personal featured mostly pop songs as well and was hit and miss. The band took some time off and said they would be going in a different direction. They were right. Dirty Work is a further progression away from the roots of what got this band noticed in the first place and mostly forgettable songs. Yes, there are some songs that have some replay value, but in this year alone there are enough good albums released and soon to be released that we will forget a lot of these songs. Catchy mainstays like Coffe House, Breakout Breakout, and others that have lasting value are nowhere to be found. The last two songs are the only ones with real lasting value.
It is a real shame to write this critical of a review because the members are all good people, good writers, and in it for the right reasons, but quite frankly this album and even the last one just have not lived up to the high expectations they are held too. This band is capable of better and is just all around disappointing. For those that really enjoyed Nothing Personal and wanted less rock and more pop, Dirty Work is right up your alley. As noted earlier, though these are not their best pop songs for the most part. For every good song there are three or four downers. Until the band gives us a reason to believe again we will just have to make do with the back catalog.