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All Time Low
Dirty Worj All Time Low | Dirty Work
Alex Z. Name: All Time Low
Label: Interscope
Release Date: June 7, 2011 (US)
3.8 out of 5

Review written by: Alan Ho
Baltimore-area alt-rockers All Time Low in today's music world are considered grizzled veterans of their genre, having formed right out of high school in 2003 and signed to a then landmark deal with Hopeless Records shortly after graduating. Their EP "Put Up or Shut Up" put the then emerging indie alt-rockers on the big stage, culminating in their coming out party in 2007 with "So Wrong, It's Right" which spawned the band's hit "Dear Maria, Count Me In". The hit single would give All Time Low their first mainstream exposure in the form of MTV and soon after, "Nothing Personal" came about, which earned them a deal with Interscope Records shortly thereafter. Now armed with the resources of a major label, what would the alt-rockers bring to the table with their first major label album debut?

The end result is aptly titled "Dirty Work", named after their past and present history and all of the "dirty work" the band has had to do for their craft and their fans. The album, originally due out in late March was shelved to its current release date, June 7, 2011 for reasons never confirmed. The slick and fast moving 12-track effort predominately shows what the band has been known for, high energy, snappy, catchy lyrics and musicianship while a small handful of songs continue to reveal the band’s surprising acoustic and introspective side sampled in “Nothing Personal”.

“Dirty Work” starts off in the band’s signature high energy with "Do You Want Me (Dead)", a perfect way to open the album. In the same musical vein as "Break Your Little Heart" from "Nothing Personal" or even “The Girl’s a Straight Up Hustler” from the breakout EP “Put Up or Shut Up”, "Do You Want Me (Dead)" comes off as musically aggressive but lyrically infectious that will have you at the very least beating your feet or hands to the tune and chanting the chorus line “Do you want me...do you want me dead?!”.

The much talked about and first single released from the album "I Feel Like Dancin'" has a definite slickness and radio-friendliness to it that makes "Poppin' Champagne", "Dear Maria" and even "Damned If I Do Ya" sound grittier and more indie by comparison. However if you're not dancing to this hook-filled, slick party-anthem rock tune, there might definitely be something wrong with you! "Forget About It" continues the high-energy pop punk that is a highly relatable, tongue-in-cheek bite back about a bad relationship in which the subject feels like a bad joke, a bad dream, and tells the girl that she is “a shining example of why I don't sleep". The brutally honest bridge is a must listen as Alex ends it with "Then there are days like today, when you make me want to tear my fucking hair out...!"

"Guts" fuses a little bit of arena rock with the band's signature pop-punk sound and features vocals from Maja Ivarsson from Swedish indie rockers The Sounds. "Guts" is a highly charged and well-built tune about the emotions one has after they have the "Guts" to say what is on their mind. The emotional charge from the song is accented in its burning guitar riffs, the pulsating drumbeats and the joined supercharged vocals of both Gaskarth and Ivarsson.

One of the songs Alex himself leaked on Twitter, "Time Bomb" made it on the final tracking of "Dirty Work" and is easily the most catchy and infectious track the pop-punkers have made thus far. However, the ill-fitting "Time Bomb" is probably the biggest weak spot in the album. The lyrics seem fit for the very crowd Alex himself has shunned but yet don't be shocked "Time Bomb" lands rotation on a certain radio station network catering to that very crowd.

"Just The Way I'm Not" is another relatable but unspectacular pop-punk tune on relationships about how a guy likes a girl the way she is but likes him for what he is not. A lot of the band's predominately-teenage girl fans should absolutely relate to this catchy pop/punk song.  However, “Just the Way I’m Not” feels like a song heard by a multitude of standard-issue pop/punk bands populating mainstream radio and on the major labels.  It is most definitely a tune that will potentially turn off the band’s older fans due to its perceived unspectacular and standard-issue nature. Next track "Under a Paper Moon" has to be one of the best tracks on the effort. The fast building crescendo on the song builds into a jump-worthy refrain and is easily one of the grittier and harder songs on the effort.

Taking a page from The Cab's handbook is "Return the Favor". Like The Cab’s biggest hits, the song moves in a fast 4/4 beat and also makes use of a few minor progressions, something else The Cab has been known to use. All in all, "Return the Favor" is actually an above-decent effort that is also deceptively catchy and should be one of the must-listens in "Dirty Work". "No Idea" is a stark departure from past and more recent sounds from All Time Low. It is very pop/Top 40-ish, airy and definitely has a slick, radio-friendly production feel to it. "No Idea" might end up being one of those songs that either you hate it a lot or you love it a lot.

"Daydream Away" displays the band's surprisingly introspective and soft side, a side this reviewer and perhaps many others haven’t seen or heard. The acoustic guitar and shakers-driven piece has a nice Plain White T's-like feel to it. It is actually a nice and refreshing change of pace song that also showcases the band's versatility in the kind of music they play. "That Girl" might tie "Time Bomb" as the weakest spot in the album. Like "Time Bomb", the song suffers from a rather predictable music setup and compared to the band’s previous works, one has to wonder where their lyrical sense went in “That Girl”.

"Dirty Work" in the end is still a relatively solid if not spectacular major label debut. There are a few overproduced and ill-fitting clunkers like "Time Bomb", "That Girl" and even "I Feel Like Dancin'" that sort of kill the album and "No Idea" is a song that should be solely determined by fans and listeners for what it ultimately could be, a true love it or hate it type song. While strong points in the album include "Forget About It", "Guts" and "Under a Paper Moon", the weaker aspects of the album, which includes the unusually slick production, some weak spots in the songwriting and the utter radio-friendliness is not enough to give it a 4.0 in the end. Certainly there will be a give and take process for anyone signed to a major label, but there seemed to be a feeling that there were sections of the album that felt more giving was done on the part of All Time Low to producers like Butch Walker and John Fields than taking. 

The band now really is at a crossroads in their careers and they must decide on their sophomore major label effort where they will ultimately belong. Is All Time Low just another band on the cluttered alternative rock wall for the major labels?  Or will this pop-punk band from Lutherville-Timonium, Maryland take the genre to new heights and breathe new life into it like their idols Blink-182 did in the late 90s and early 2000s?  Time will tell where Alex Gaskarth and Co. belongs but for now, "Dirty Work" is a generally solid album to put in your collection and listen to over and over again, especially as summer rolls around.
Facebook Comments: Keep 'em clean folks!
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