Released: 3rd April 2020
Wake Up, Sunshine is album number eight from Baltimore feel-good pop-punkers All Time Low. Their second release on Fueled By Ramen, it sees a return to familiar territory after previous effort, Last Young Renegade. While their Fueled By Ramen debut received praise from mainstream music critics, it polarised fans with its synth-pop influences and heavily polished sound. As one of pop-punk’s most consistent bands of the last decade, this change of direction didn’t feel like a natural step to take or showcase the best they have to offer, so it’s little surprise they’ve returned to what they do best.
Wake Up, Sunshine features some incredibly strong songs that wouldn’t be out of place on the band’s earlier releases, yet there is a welcome sense of maturity in their songwriting – it’s refreshing that they seem to have accepted they’re no longer in their early 20s and have acted accordingly.
One of All Time Low’s strengths is their ability to begin every album with a bang, and this one is no exception. Some Kind Of Disaster is a model album opener, showcasing everything great about the band. The entirety of the song is infectiously catchy and reeks of experience, as well as very much proving that the synth-driven sound of the previous album is gone. The pace is kept up in the following few tracks, including recent single Getaway Green, a timeless pop-punk anthem, and State Champs-Esque Melancholy Kaleidoscope. Trouble Is plays with time signatures in its verses before launching into its huge chorus on one of the album’s strongest tracks. It is noticeable at this point that vocalist Alex Gaskarth’s voice sounds a little older and a little wiser on this album. Obviously that is somewhat inevitable, but it adds some extra character to enjoy.
Nestled towards the middle of the album is the standout track, Monsters. Featuring blackbear, this hip-hop-infused song is uncharted territory for the band but definitely pays off. The dark tone adds another dimension to the album but isn’t alienating. blackbear’s single verse is enough to add his mark to the song without being overbearing, and compliments the tone excellently, as well as keeping the album interesting.
The main issue with Wake Up, Sunshine, is its length. With 15 tracks, all with similar durations, it simply feels too long for a pop-punk album. The final half feels like it’s running out of ideas and isn’t as captivating as the beginning. Following on from Monsters is Pretty Venom, a lengthy interlude at the midway point of the album. It’s a decent enough song, but its necessity has to be questioned, as it makes an already long album even longer. Track number 10, Safe, feels like the album closer. It’s softer, contemplative, and would be a decent finale, however, it’s followed by five more songs. While these remaining songs aren’t bad, they fail to reach the heights of the rest of the album and feel like somewhat of an afterthought – mere bonus tracks.
When the album winds down with Safe, the momentum is lost, and this final clutter of songs miss their mark and instead end up as a stretched out ending to the album. This is a huge shame because there is clear potential in these songs, with a shift towards a more mature and emotional tone, but it feels like All Time Low is trying to do too much for one album.
The change in direction on Last Young Renegade suggested the band were growing artistically and weren’t afraid of change, but with an immediate return to their old ways, it must be asked if All Time Low have a clear vision. There may be hints of a band trying to grow up and develop on Wake Up, Sunshine, but despite the overall strong songwriting, the album feels confused with its identity. With all that being said, however, All Time Low has proven that they are still capable of writing magnificent pop-punk songs, and nobody can take that away from them.
Review by Will Cooper