All Time Low don’t do things by halves. Selling out Wembley Arena, landing on daytime radio playlists and releasing a new album are all (hopefully) likely scenarios for a bunch of bands that bridge the gap between punk and radio-friendly alt-pop. Yet come April 6, the Maryland quartet will have done all of this in the space of a few weeks.
The cover art on the new record might look like the doodles of the person behind the artwork for Pearl Jam’s Lightning Bolt, but don’t for minute assume that’s a reflection on the music. Opening is Satellite, a booming slow march that has the air of the Black Lips covering Green Day, thanks to its anthemic drum beat and helping of trendy fuzz.
That lo-fi, garage feel drops in and out throughout the album, but ATL don’t let it temper the bouncy pop-punk that made their name. Early tracks Kicking and Screaming and Something’s Gotta Give are strong reminders that they’re a band whose real heyday was in the era when Green Day and Good Charlotte were at the top of their game; the lead guitar lines and karaoke-worthy gang vocals sound much as they did back in 2003. That’s not to say it’s a bad listen – these guys are pop punks right down to their sports socks, and their sound was enough to bring 12,000 people to Wembley Arena on March 20. So, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
Second single Kids In The Dark has the kind of chorus that will probably ring out from a bus stop near you in due course, as a group of teens sing with gusto into their iPhones. That’s the thing about Future Hearts; it’s cheesy, yes, but it’s unashamedly feel-good. Runaways hammers this point home with its soaring, melodic chorus of optimistic defiance, before the record moves on to ATL’s very own Time Of Your Life-cum-Hey There Delilah-cum-Young Volcanoes moment with Missing You. If you’re thinking it sounds a bit hammy, you’d be right.
Some of pop punk’s other big kahunas make an appearance later on in the album. First up is Mark Hoppus’s feature spot on Tidal Waves, which is a surprisingly grown-up ballad. You can even forgive it for being a bit Owl City round the edges, because the contrast in mood to the record so far is tangible; it’s single material through and through. Joel Madden, who recently had a stab at retro stoner-pop as one half of duo The Madden Brothers, is next up the plate on Bail Me Out, bringing along some jolly handclaps and a chorus that sounds like he’s been listening to a lot of Phish. Alongside Tidal Waves, it’s one of the record’s best tracks.
The token slice of aggression comes in the form of Dancing With A Wolf, a sharp lament with strong flavours of Panic! At The Disco. As the record wraps up with Old Scars / Future Hearts, one thing becomes obvious: as much as Future Hearts has its cheesy moments, it’s never dull, and it wears its heart on its sleeve throughout. Pop punk might not have changed in 12 years, but it definitely isn’t dead.