Signing with a major label doesn’t mean you have to grow up, and All Time Low fly their juvenile flag high on Dirty Work, the band’s first album with Interscope Records. “Everybody gettin’ kind crunk/I think some dude just grabbed my junk,” Alex Gaskarth sings in “I Feel Like Dancin’,” a party anthem co-written by Rivers Cuomo and performed with the cheeky, half-serious swagger of “Beverly Hills.” The song glorifies the excesses of rock & roll — the parties, the girls, the keg stands — and it’s pushed toward the front of the track list, as though the guys are eager to put their most adolescent foot forward. Even so, the bulk of Dirty Work is more grown-up than All Time Low’s previous work, and it features 12 slick songs that focus more on melody than shock value. Pop hooks are everywhere — in the choruses, the guitar riffs, even the clamp-stomp percussion of songs like “Just the Way I’m Not” — and every song is performed like an anthem, with booming drums and gang vocals layered into the mix. Like many emo pop bands, All Time Low are intensely popular on the road, where they’ve built up an audience thanks to a whirl of headlining shows and package tours. Dirty Work takes aim at those returning fans, delivering a boiled-down version of what typically works best at an All Time Low show. Each song typically starts with a bang, settles into a quiet verse, and builds up to a show-stopping crescendo, and the lyrics — filled to the brim with tales of doomed relationships and messy breakups — are written with the sort of bruised defiance that encourages audience members to shout along. Don’t call it punk-pop; there’s nothing punky about the polished production, the handclaps, or the reference to Kesha in “I Feel Like Dancin’.” Instead, consider Dirty Work the band’s ultimate bid for mainstream acceptance, and one of their strongest pop albums to date.
author: Andrew Leahey