All Time Low belong to a certain class of rock band. They were finding their feet just as the likes of Paramore, Fall Out Boy, and My Chemical Romance were reaching arena status, something they would achieve much later in 2015 when they headlined the Hydro, and when these bands had either left the scene behind or had hung up their boots. Now eight albums deep, Wake Up, Sunshine occupies a strange place as the band recalibrate following the shaky Last Young Renegades. To set things right, All Time Low have looked back to move forward, the end result being a record that longs for the mid-2000s.
“I’m a liar, I’m a cynic; I’m a sinner, I’m a saint” sings Alex Gaskarth on opener Some Kind of Disaster, factory-made for MSN Names and Bebo statuses. The cheeky chorus of “If I said ‘I want your body’ would you hold it against me?” on Sleeping In is constructed in the same fashion, belonging to a time when Pete Wentz was a generation’s poet. Where Wentz wrote from the heart, Gaskarth writes with mega-producers Dr Luke and Max Martin, somewhat sapping the record of any bite, focusing instead on how replayable and infectious each melody is.
This is a clinic in how to write choruses, even if they now all sound indebted to other bands. Melancholy Kaleidoscope is a Train song turned up to 11; the title track is textbook Good Charlotte; distant memories of Boys Like Girls come back to haunt you on January Gloom (Seasons, Pt. 1). But All Time Low have built their success upon the immediacy of their compositions: one play-through is enough for several songs to become earworms.
Using the past to propel into the future can work: just listen to Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia. All Time Low aren’t so sure of where they’re going, and don’t dare to make the creative leaps of their former peers in Paramore et al, resulting in a record whose reliance on the past makes it sound stuck there. Paired with some of the most prolific songwriters in the business, the band stick with what works, making Wake Up, Sunshine feel both terribly safe, and like an old familiar friend.