If Don’t Panic: It’s Longer Now sounds like the punch line to a bad dick joke, that’s because it probably is. All Time Low has long been known for its inappropriate sense of humor, as well as their ability to never take things too seriously, though the one thing they’ve always taken seriously is their music.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was turned off by the band’s 2011 release, Dirty Work, but the boys from Baltimore bounced back with an impressive effort in last year’s Don’t Panic. Which made the idea of an extended version all the more intriguing. Armed with four new songs and four acoustic renditions of songs from the original release, All Time Low is back to show fans that they’ve still got plenty of fire.
The album starts out with the familiarly defiant and upbeat “The Reckless and the Brave,” a song about the band’s time on major label Interscope and how Alex Gaskarth “Didn’t fit in / Didn’t hate it / But I didn’t quite relate it to my precious little world.” From there, Don’t Panic: It’s Longer Now dives right into the first of the new songs, “A Love Like War.” With its growling guitars and hammering drums, “A Love Like War” has an edgier rock feel more on par with “So Long Soldier” than the majority of Don’t Panic. It also adds Vic Fuentes of Pierce The Veil to the list of guest spots, his sharp voice playing well off Gaskarth’s deeper one and serving to accentuate rather than overshadow it.
A couple songs later, All Time Low introduces another new track, “Me Without You (All I Ever Needed).” It juxtaposes upbeat melodies with distressing lyrics (“There is ice in place of answers / And a cold that chills the bones / When September came and went without an answer / We were left to Fall for Winter on our own”), and showcases some of Rian Dawson’s most impressive drumming to date.
The final two new songs are “Canals” and “Oh, Calamity!” The first follows the commanding triple threat of “If These Sheets Were States,” “Somewhere In Neverland,” and “So Long Soldier.” It holds its own though with a funky yet sultry melody that stands out in an otherwise straightforward pop-rock album.
“Oh, Calamity!” rounds out the electric portion of Don’t Panic: It’s Longer Now and if the album were to stop there, it would be a disappointingly mellow conclusion to an energetic album. But its slower pace and brief acoustic interlude serve as a good segue into the four acoustic songs that close out Don’t Panic: It’s Longer Now.
For the final extension of Don’t Panic, All Time Low chose to re-imagine four of the album’s most popular songs: “For Baltimore,” “Somewhere In Neverland,” “The Reckless and the Brave,” and “Backseat Serenade.” “For Baltimore” features wicked harmonies that highlight the sentimentality of the song; overall, it’s one of All Time Low’s more personal tracks, an ode to the hometown they’ll never outgrow.
The most impressive of the four though is undoubtedly “Somewhere In Neverland.” It replaces the original’s playful guitar melodies with sincere and solemn violin, provided by Sean Mackin of Yellowcard. His skillful bowing mirrors the quietly emotional tone in Gaskarth’s voice, creating a nostalgia that’s as painful as it is beautiful.
When you listen to an album enough you often begin to know the order of the songs, it can be a little disconcerting to hear new songs peppered in amongst the older ones. But nitpicking aside, the additions to Don’t Panic are some of the strongest songs All Time Low has ever written. Coupled with the added acoustic versions, the new songs are a solid confirmation of the band’s growth as musicians and songwriters.
author: Becky Kovach & Erik Van Rheenen