All Time Low had some ground to make up in the wake of the disappointing and overly poppy Dirty Work, which left a bad taste in fans’ mouths with its overuse of synthesizers and simplistically immature lyrics. Thankfully, they do all that and more with their fourth album, Don’t Panic. The band’s latest outing doesn’t quite surmount Nothing Personal, but it does represent a return to their So Wrong, It’s Right pop punk roots. Although many of its singles seem tailor-made for the radio, Don’t Panic largely avoids a dependence on brain-dead, electro-dominated synth beats and auto-tuned atrocities, which typified Dirty Work. Although there are some overproduced songs to be found here, frontman Alex Gaskarth delivers the same genuine and urgent sentiments of the past that were nowhere to be found on All Time Low’s last album. The passion, clever lyrics and emphasis creating alternative rock songs that are catchy (rather than catchy songs that barely qualify as pop punk) all return after a one-record lapse, making Don’t Panic a definite step back in the right direction.
“The Reckless And The Brave” quickly shows All Time Low is back to proper form with an upbeat pop punk anthem for the teenage masses to swear their allegiance by. Rian Dawson’s perfectly paced drumming and Jack Barakat’s prominent guitar riffs reaffirm the band’s return to their roots, while Gaskarth’s melodic vocals deliver the rallying cry of each chorus: “Long live the reckless and the brave / I don think I wanna be saved, my song has not been sung / And long live the fast times, so come what may / I don’t think I’ll ever be saved, our song has not been sung/ So long live us.”
While the dynamic leadoff track deals with youthful rebellion and living life to the fullest, the catchy followup “Backseat Serenade” centers on another popular All Time Low staple: lust and romance. With its sexually charged lyrics and Gaskarth’s harmonizing serenade, this single-worthy song is an instant classic. Infectious guitar riffs and Zack Merrick’s central bass hook make an enjoyable song even more memorable, while Cassadee Pope of Hey Monday adds to its appeal with welcome guest vocals. Despite its simple, animalistic premise, “Backseat Serenade” immediately sets itself apart as the best song of Don’t Panic and a terrific example of what this band does best.
“Somewhere In Neverland” doesn’t feature any of the band’s most impressive hooks or drum rhythms, but there’s something to be said of how effective and entertaining Gaskarth’s songbird voice can be when set to a backdrop of lively guitar riffs and a peppy drum beat. The Peter Pan-Wendy lyrical gimmick isn’t the best All Time Low has to offer, but it’s intriguing and charming enough to give this track a strong presence on the album.
Although it falls short of the band’s best work, Don’t Panic is an enjoyable dose of pop punk, which is more than could be said of their last album. The compositional variety of this new entry speaks to All Time Low’s growth and maturity as a band. The aggressive riffs and drumming of “So Long Soldier” nearly fools the listener into thinking New Found Glory is playing while “The Irony Of Choking On A Lifesaver” reverts back to the auto-tuned, synthesized pop style of Dirty Work. However, what separates Don’t Panic from the lackluster record that preceded it is the emphasis on more intelligent and affecting lyrics; rather than annoying the audience with lame party songs filled drinking and Ke$ha references, All Time Low returns to writing about things that actually matter while still keeping in mind what the their teenage crowd wants to hear. Infectious songs like “For Baltimore” and “If These Sheets Were States” are classic All Time Low, which is really all fans of bands like Mayday Parade, The Maine, Yellowcard, Boys Like Girls, The Summer Set, Every Avenue, A Rocket To The Moon and Forever The Sickest Kids wanted the last time around. Don’t Panic doesn’t live up to All Time Low’s best or catchiest work, but it’s another satisfying pop punk release at the very least.
Final Score: 7/10
Rank: 3rd (five total albums)
- The Reckless And The Brave
- Backseat Serenade
- If These Sheets Were States
- Somewhere In Neverland
- So Long Soldier
- The Irony Of Choking On A Lifesaver
- To Live And Let Go
- Thanks To You
- For Baltimore
- Paint You Wings
- So Long, And Thanks For All Booze