All Time Low – ‘Wake Up, Sunshine’

By Yasmin Brown

After 16 years as a band, All Time Low have reached a point in their career where any new music feels like coming home. We have total trust in their judgement when it comes to both sonic and thematic direction and (with one or two exceptions) this trust always pays off.

2017’s ‘Last Young Renegade’, for example, in all its angst and gloom, was (objectively, of course) one of the band’s best releases to date, yet this was the album that saw them depart most sharply from where they first started back in 2003. With ‘Wake Up, Sunshine’, the band maintains this newfound maturity while also revisiting their roots and incorporating many of the sounds that we grew to know and love in the years that preceded ‘LYR’. 

Put simply, this album is everything you’ve ever loved about All Time Low amalgamated into one album. And it. Is. Glorious.

You might think, given the bright nature of the album title, that what’s in store is 15 tracks of joy and sunshine. You would be wrong. There are definitely moments of happiness, hope and inspiration, but All Time Low wouldn’t be All Time Low if they didn’t provoke at least a few misty eyed moments. This record will take you on a journey of emotion and long forgotten memories that you considered to be deep in the past, reigniting old fires and leaving you feeling ready to take on the world.

The likelihood is that you’ll already have had time to familiarise yourself with the first six tracks, the band having drip fed fans over the past few months in a successful bid to increase anticipation. What you’d expect from these teasers would be endless anthemic choruses and pop-punk riffs, as well as impressive bridges and wonderfully implemented synths, and you’ll be well validated in this expectation.

What might not have been immediately obvious from the first half of this record, however, is the theme that runs throughout; of holding onto things that you should be setting free. Whether that be a memory, a friendship, a relationship – you’ll find yourself recalling instances in your own life where you should have let go long before you did, and the consequences of your persistence and loyalty. This theme kicks off with the album with ‘Some Kind of Disaster’ and the idea of wanting someone bad for you, carrying on well into ‘Getaway Green’ that touches on the toxicity of rekindling an old friendship, and how someone can become such a part of you that leaving feels like ripping yourself apart in ‘Trouble Is’.

It’s not all sad though, and after the cute acoustic chorus that sits within the über pop-punk ‘Melancholy Kaleidoscope’, the mood picks up with title track ‘Wake Up, Sunshine’. It’s a sweet track with a well meaning message (if a little lacklustre), standing out – as you’d expect – like a sunbeam through the clouds among its more moody counterparts. 

Most notably sitting in this ‘moody’ category is ‘Monsters’ featuring blackbear, a track that’s so reminiscent of ‘Last Young Renegade’ that you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for a B-side on the 2017 release. As a result, it feels like one of the most dark and mature tracks on the record, its strong bassline and front man Alex Gaskarth’s outstanding vocals inevitably send chills through you as you listen to lyrics that depict a scenario of someone or something having so much control over you that you become reckless. 

‘Monsters’ acts as the perfect setup for the next two tracks, ‘Pretty Venom’ and ‘Favorite Place’ (the latter featuring The Band CAMINO), two very different sounds but when juxtaposed, work seamlessly together. ‘Pretty Venom’ continues to feed into the theme of giving someone too much power, showcasing Gaskarth’s higher vocal range and leaves a temporary heaviness in your heart. It’s a heaviness that’s short lived as ‘Favorite Place’ gives you no time to ruminate, immediately filling your ears with the happiest of riffs. 

The album fits together so perfectly and so smoothly, and despite each track bringing something new to the table, it tells a story so coherent and leaves an image so clear in your mind that you’ll be left with goosebumps multiple times as you make your way through.

While it’s 15 tracks long, never once do you get a sense of monotony or repetitiveness, and as the uplifting anthem ‘Safe’ kicks in, you’ll find yourself feeling glad that there are still five tracks to go. This is just one of the songs that you can easily picture filling a venue, the band filling the stage with energy, needlessly encouraging the already screaming crowd to sing along. It’s one of the few tracks that really seems to encompass the album’s title, a hopeful sensation that is quickly overturned by the more melancholy ‘January Gloom (Seasons pt. 1)’ and ‘Clumsy’.

Sandwiched between the seasons is the wonderfully acoustic ‘Glitter and Crimson’ brings thoughts of luck and love; the excitement and recklessness that comes with adoration. When combined with the bridge and final chorus, this is a track that will undoubtedly have hearts beating hard and fast before slowing down along with its gentle end. As has become a trend on the album, the respite that might ordinarily come with tracks such as these is quickly interrupted by the second of the seasons, ‘Summer Daze (Seasons pt 2.), wherein guitar riffs reign supreme. You might expect this track to feel more lighthearted than its January counterpart, but it feels just as sad in many ways, and ultimately leaves a little rain cloud hanging over you as it fades out.

Closing track ‘Basement Noise’ is truly worth its own review; a throwback to the band’s roots, it’s nostalgic and sweet. All Time Low have been a band for almost two decades, and so a track reminiscing about the boys they were compared with the men they are today feels sincere and worthy of more than the three minutes All Time Low have allowed for. It’s the perfect closing track, written for the fans as much as it is the band – a testament to how far they’ve come since they were just those “stupid boys in the basement”. 

Combining a little bit of everything, ‘Wake Up, Sunshine’ is an album full of fiercely strong bridges and catchy choruses, making it accessible to fans old and new, without losing that special something that’s always helped All Time Low stand out from the crowd, progressing further than many of their peers from 10-15 years ago. The band have clearly worked to each of their strengths, and no single element that makes up this album stands out more than any other, as each works together to create a near perfect work of art. In a gloomy and uncertain time, one thing is for sure: All Time Low will always be around to bring sunshine to your day.

YASMIN BROWN

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