It’s here. All Time Low‘s album debut on their new label Fueled By Ramen. Some may call it “the sellout label,” but anyone who wants to see their favorite band succeed should understand that it was the perfect time for a label move. Face it, All Time Low has exceeded their reign on the pop-punk world and are ready to reach for bigger and brighter stars. The only thing we as fans can hope for is that they don’t completely lose themselves under the spotlight of a larger, more successful label.
From the release of its first single “Dirty Laundry,” it was clear that the Baltimore quartet’s seventh’s album Last Young Renegade was going to be a far cry from the “Dear Maria, Count Me In” days. It was as if they stripped themselves clean of their Hopeless Records persona and quickly adapted to the style recognizable by the current Fueled By Ramen lineup (Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco, Paramore, Twenty One Pilots). Instrumentally, LYR is filled with more mid-tempo, ballad sounding tracks (think “No Idea” from Dirty Work or “The Edge Of Tonight” from Future Hearts) and clear 80’s and old school R&B influences weaved throughout. It’s definitely not the upbeat, crowd surfing music that long time fans have gotten used to. However, the lyrical aspect is stronger, more mature, and more personal than ever before. For this particular review, I’m choosing to focus more on the lyrics and messages of each track instead of going the easy route of knocking down the album purely because it sounds different.
1. Last Young Renegade
The theme of nostalgia plays a huge part throughout the album and the fun, upbeat title track is the appropriate start of it all. Throughout its lyrics, “Last Young Renegade” can easily be perceived as a song about reminiscing on a young love. However, lines like “…Making mistakes that were made for us/We brushed them off like paper cuts…” and “…I want to know that you’re somewhere out there/Somewhere down this road…” show the listener that there are bittersweet feelings still there even though both parties have long moved on to bigger and better things in their lives – thoughts that can be applied to close friendships as well as amicable breakups. In a way, the persona of ‘the last young renegade’ is used as a personified idea of leaving your youth and looking back on the memories that stick with you as an adult.
2. Drugs & Candy
Aggravated, disappointed vocals from frontman Alex Gaskarth proves “Drugs & Candy” to be a darker, more mature of the ‘I thought we were something more’ kind of song. Throughout its lyrics, we as the listener learn all about a toxic relationship that started while in a vulnerable state (You caught me in a moment of redemption/There’s nothing to explain/You had me on the edge of indiscretion/You said you feel the same”). Lines like “The sweetness of you on my tongue/I breathed you in, you filled my lungs” and “You get me out of my head/I fill the space in your bed/High on the beat of a breakdown” portray the invigorating, almost addicting part of a new relationship. “Drugs & Candy” is a song representation of someone coming to the realization that too much time and effort was wasted on someone who clearly didn’t appreciate them as much as they deserve.
I still by statement in my single review for “Dirty Laundry” where I say “It’s clear throughout the track that the song revolves around not wanting letting go of the past to pursue something new.” It’s a simple enough song that uses mature, understanding lyrics to showcase the trials of being in a romantic relationship where both parties are far from the definition of ‘perfect’ (“She’s got her secrets/Yeah I got mine too/I don’t care about what you did/Only care about what we do”). With the release of the full album, “Dirty Laundry”‘s musicality, instrumentation style and lyrical strength really did become the primary stepping stone to All Time Low’s Fueled By Ramen transition.
4. Good Times
This is a song that I honestly wish was in their familiar pop-punk style because of its subject matter, but the mid-tempo pace still kind of worked for its reminiscent nature. From just the title alone, it was obvious that “Good Times” was going to play into ‘looking back at the past’ theme that had already been set up for us. Its lyrics give off a home video effect as it paints pictures of what can only be seen as some of the experiences the boys have had growing up in their career, which by the way started when they were still in high school (!). Its bridge consisting of the lines “When we laughed, when we cried/Those were the days we owned the nights/Locked away, lost in time/I found the nerve to say that” reinforces the nostalgia factor as it reminds us that there are some memories that we can never let go of no matter how much time has past. I almost wish this song was the ending track for the album because it would’ve been the perfect bookend pairing with “Last Young Renegade.”
You know when you part ways with your close friends and you say that’ll you’ll talk all the time even though you’ll be far away from each other? Well, this song is all about how the “we’ll keep in touch” statement is easier said than done. It’s written for the long-distance friendships that we sometimes take for granted, but value enough to make every moment spent with them a last hurrah (“One more time as if we planned it/We just wanna do some damage”). And with long-distance friendships, sometimes we lose touch with each other to the point where that person is just a figment of the past (“Call out the names that you used to know/Singing along in broken stereo/Crossfire that ya can’t ignore/I know I’m not around much anymore, anymore”). “Nic2KnoU” is an anthem for the times in our lives where we just have to say “One last time for old time’s sake,” let life take its course, and cherish the fun memories that we’ve had.
6. Life Of The Party
If it’s a dark, moody club-ish track that you want then “Life Of The Party” is you jam. Musically, it’s a lot more different than even that on Dirty Work. But lyrically, this song is meant to show the inner thoughts of a person who feels that they’ve lost themselves through the lifestyle they’ve been living for so long. “Life Of The Party” is very much a reflection song, gloomily looking back at the stranger in the mirror (“Somewhere in between/Who I used to be/And who I’ll be tomorrow”) and the memories that contributed to that loss of self (“In a sea of strangers, I can’t find me anymore”). While there are clear hints to the rockstar lifestyle within its lyrics (“All these people are passed out on the floor in my hotel room…Thrills don’t come for free, the price you pay for dreams…”) this type of theme doesn’t just apply to the life of a successful musician either. It universally relates to those working so much just to make ends meet, to those trying to keep up with certain activities to please their parents or friends, and to those in a relationship that’s holding them back. I personally love when artists write about the dark side of fame so to me this song was the strongest on the album.
If you’re looking for that heartbreakingly honest track that hits you right in the feels look no further than “Nightmares.” It’s been mentioned the track is about the way we learn to handle the turbulence in life and striving to balance that enough to move on from it. From a lyrical standpoint, it can also be about how we handle our ‘nightmares’ and ‘ghosts’ brought on by jabs at our mental health. Gaskarth has been always been open about his anxiety and really uses this song to give the listeners another aspect to living with it and not losing yourself to it even when it becomes overbearing. A majority of the tone is very reflection based and veers back to the present during the chorus. It’s a great companion track to Nothing Personal‘s “Therapy” as it also revolves around accepting that even though you try your best to be ‘okay’ (Always used to be the one to let it go/Kept my fears in a suitcase/I locked them away) sometimes you just can’t control the moments where you’re not ‘okay’ (I gotta say, it’s hard to be brave/When you’re alone in the dark/I told myself that I wouldn’t be scared/But I’m still having nightmares”).
8. Dark Side Of Your Room
I’ll be honest, this one isn’t my favorite on the album and it really should’ve been in at least Nothing Personal style music wise. In a way, it ended up being more of a track suited for Dirty Work, upbeat enough to have potential but lyrics that don’t really pack a punch hard enough to be a song that you play on repeat. It’s a fun song with easy to learn lines, but when compared to the lyrical strength of the rest of the songs it just falls short and becomes another edition to “the notches on your bedpost.”
9. Ground Control (feat. Tegan and Sara)
Music-wise I was taken aback by it the first time I heard it. However, I realized it almost sounds like a modernized “Don’t You Forget About Me” and discovered how positive and therapeutic its lyrics were meant to be. “Ground Control”‘s overall message is to remember that it’s perfectly fine to reach out to someone when trying to live with anxiety. In a way, there are 3 stages of pushing past those demons being portrayed before each chorus – feeling lost, being found, and overcoming. The lyrics transition from hurting and crying out for help (“Now I think we’ve lost it all/There’s nothing to explain the distances anymore/…Feels like there’s nowhere to go”) to finding the strength to pull yourself out of your rut (“There’s nothing keeping me from going outside anymore…
Gotta find my way back to you”) and evidently ends with feeling empowered. “Ground Control” grew on me and gives off the same after-listening feeling as Future Hearts‘ “Missing You,” but obviously more upbeat.
Out of all the ways to end Last Young Renegade, “Afterglow” would not have been my first choice of an ending track. It’s more Fun.‘s “Some Nights” or Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness than it is All Time Low on both an instrumental and lyrical scale. Believe me, it’s not the worst song in the world. But it almost would’ve been better if this was a bonus track or if the album ended with “Good Times” or “Ground Control.” The lyrics were clearly meant to be an “Old Scars/Future Hearts” kind of track, but unfortunately the low-tempo, ethereal delivery didn’t quite sell the enlightening message of the song. Maybe that’s what they were trying to go for with “just take it easy” vibe coming through Gaskarth’s words. It’s not the worst song in the world, but it could’ve been better. Or at least placed at a different part of the album.
Regardless of the instrumentation being a far cry from the upbeat and pure pop punk style of So Wrong, It’s Right, All Time Low used this album to be completely open with their listeners about the dark side of adulthood that almost all of us face at one point or another. Whether it be struggling with love, anxiety, growing apart from friends, or feeling lost, there’s a song for everyone to relate to on Last Young Renegade. Lyrically, I think this is their strongest and most personal to date. Maybe that’s due to more life experience or maybe it’s them growing on a songwriting scale. Personally, I wish there were a few more peppy tracks to work with because that’s the All Time Low that I’ve grown to know and love. However, I respect their choice to adventure in a different direction musically as that’s quite literally a part of growing up in and of itself.
All Time Low's Fueled By Ramen debut falls short on instrumental originality but gives listeners the best songwriting they've done so far.