After the all-or-nothing attitude behind their last full-length Nothing Personal, Alex Gaskarth and company seemed to have the world in their hands when it came to following up their commercially and critically successful album when they sat down to write the follow-up. Where Nothing Personal still had a great deal of the band’s glossy pop-punk still at the heart of their sound, you could hear they were starting to stray into something a bit more shined up and poppy. Enter Dirty Work. After the splash they made with the first single to surface, the rather out-of-character “I Feel Like Dancin’”, opinions were mixed on whether or not the band could keep the popularity freight train rolling with their fourth full-length record. Sadly, Dirty Work is a huge step backward for a band that has the chops and swagger to pump out catchy tunes with a whole lot of heart. All Time Low may have just lived up to their name with this album, as they water down their sound even further and lose most of what made them popular and ahead of their peers in the first place.
Even if you weren’t on board with Nothing Personal, the band’s pre-NP work stands on its own as solid, if not great pop-punk, with Gaskarth’s voice shining on top of well-written songs driven by buzzing guitars and fun, yet strong drumming. But even a few songs into Dirty Work, you can tell something is off. Overproduced and emotionally flat, there just isn’t much good to say about this album. Aside from the seemingly FTSK-influenced “I Feel Like Dancin’”, a track that even Rivers Cuomo can’t save, we get the slow and sullen “Time-Bomb”, which fails at even creating an interesting chorus to balance out the poor excuse of a verse. Aiming straight for arenas and selling records, “Just the Way I’m Not” features hair-metal-like drum production and a gang-vocal-led chorus that dulls Gaskarth’s usually impressive vocals.
Strange enough, All Time Low seem to be in a completely different world this time around, as tracks like “Forget About It”, “Under a Paper Moon” and “I Feel Like Dancin’” show with unneeded slickness, out-of-body songwriting (not in a good way) and underachieving vocals. It’s been heard before that they can write catchy, strong tunes without sacrificing themselves in the process. Even album opener “Do You Want Me (Dead?)” lacks the punch that their previous openers have harnessed. The question is, what happened this time?
There are a few saving moments on Dirty Work, if you could call them that. “A Daydream Away” is a solid acoustic number with a somber, yet memorable chorus and simple melodies. “Return the Favor” channels a bit of old Panic! At the Disco with epic passages of strings and smooth guitar melodies, though it just might not rock as hard. “Heroes” closes the album in the way we would have hoped the band could have written a little bit more of this album – with crunching pop-punk and huge choruses. Why did they stray so far from this throughout most of this album? This track is more than enough proof that they still have it in them to write these types of tracks, not to mention that they can still do it well.
As far as pop goes, Dirty Work isn’t quite on par with what usually kicks the door down in terms of hook-laden, melody bursting pop that much younger bands are writing with much more success. It almost seems like they did what they wanted to do just because they know they are All Time Low and people would give it a chance. Well, we are, and it just doesn’t stack up, regardless if we take into account what they’ve done in the past. To put it simply, this is a disappointment whether you’re an All Time Low fan or not.
2. I Feel Like Dancin'
3. Forget About It
6. Just the Way I'm Not
7. Under a Paper Moon
8. Return the Favor
9. No Idea
10. Daydream Away
11. That Girl
All Time Low is an American pop punk band from Baltimore, Maryland, formed in 2003. The band consists of vocalist and rhythm guitarist Alexander Gaskarth, lead guitarist and backing vocalist Jack Barakat, bassist and back vocalist Zachary Merrick, and drummer Rian Dawson. The band's name is taken from lyrics in the song "Head on Collision" by New Found Glory.... read more