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‘Don’t Panic‘ marks a return to the independent Hopeless Records for All Time Low after a brief sojourn with major label Interscope, so the assumption would be that they’re returning to their roots, musically. This is somewhat true, as the album is rife with 90s nostalgia, but it also sees the band looking forward with a polished, righteous sound.
This begs the question; do All Time Low deserve the punk label? Such calculated songwriting and production puts them firmly in the realm of pop, but ‘Don’t Panic‘ has none of the raw, unrestrained emotion one would hope for. The only thing that’s unrestrained here is the lengths to which the band go to live out their most saccharine pop fantasies, and that’s clearly okay with them.
Thematically, tracks like ‘The Reckless and the Brave‘ deal unashamedly with the band’s departure from Interscope, and the virtues of perseverance and risk-taking. It’s clearly a hot topic and gets more than enough attention, but thankfully it doesn’t come across as whingy.
‘Backseat Serenade‘ opens with a hint of electronic Britpop, then the chorus hits and it’s straight up Americana. The contrast is actually quite satisfying and shows maturity in the band’s songwriting. In ‘Somewhere in Neverland‘, they manage to take a standard pop-punk chord progression, and make it interesting with powerful vocals that show an appreciation of counterpoint.
All Time Low allow a healthy amount of nostalgia to shine through on tracks like ‘To Live and Let Go‘ and ‘For Baltimore‘, which is unsurprising given their more obvious influences, namely Blink-182 and NOFX, basically defined certain periods of 90’s pop-punk.
Apart from a few standout tracks, however, there are times when the band is clearly falling back on tried and tested ideas. ‘Don’t Panic‘ is sometimes over the top, sometimes underwhelming, and despite the fact that it conjures images of droopy v-necks and two-tone hairdos rather too often, it’s actually not bad.
All Time Low’s music is calculated to a specific formula, both in terms of songwriting and production. With ‘Don’t Panic’, the formula occasionally yields songs that are worth a listen, but as an album about growing up and dealing with the responsibilities of being a popular pop-punk band, it’s catchy but ultimately unfulfilling.
1. The Reckless and the Brave
2. Backseat Serenade
3. If These Sheets Were States
4. Somewhere in Neverland
5. So Long, Soldier
6. The Irony of Choking on a Lifesaver
7. To Live and Let Go
9. Thanks to You
10. For Baltimore
11. Paint You Wings
12. So Long, and Thanks for All the Booze