Like every genre, pop punk has certainly experienced its share of changes over the years. Since its heyday back in the 2000’s when I was a teenager and young adult reveling in the scene, pop punk has seen a major shift in the bands that make up the sub-genre of punk rock. Bands that once dominated the scene have since disbanded, faded away, dropped off the face of the earth, or altered their sound so much that they’ve lost their core fans. Yes, there are still a few veteran pop punk rockers left that are hanging on with the fans that have also grown alongside them over the years, but those bands are becoming few and far between. Looking at the recent Warped Tour line-ups within the last few years and not recognizing 95% of the bands on the bill has served as proof enough that there’s a new wave of pop punk bands taking over.
It’s also enough to make this 32-year-old (who once submerged herself in all things emo and punk) feel completely out of touch with today’s modern era of pop punk. While some of these newer bands maintain a sound that very loudly calls out who they’re clearly influenced by, some other bands have instead modified the sound completely. Not to say that that’s a bad thing; it’s just different, and takes a little bit of adjusting for some of us who are still reminiscing about “the good ole days” of pop punk. In the midst of all this evolution that’s happening within the genre, there is one band who continues to outlast and outshine the rest because they are consistently putting out one great album after another, which has only further solidified their role as pop punk warriors.
In 2003, All Time Low were just a high school band from Baltimore, who in 2004, released their debut EP entitled The Three Words to Remember in Dealing with the End. Fast forward to 2017, and that same band now has seven studio albums under their belts, as well as two Live DVD’s. They don’t show any sign of slowing down anytime soon either. They’ve appeared on festivals, they’ve served as the opening act for their own musical heroes, and they’ve been the headliner. With a new record label behind them (ATL made the switch from Hopeless Records to Fueled by Ramen earlier this year) and the release of their latest album, Last Young Renegade out now, All Time Low are currently headlining their own (almost completely sold out, BTW) tour, which is being called The Last Young Renegade Tour. Opening for them on tour are new, indie alternative band, The Wrecks, who released their debut EP last year entitled We Are The Wrecks, which was recorded in only three days, with a $0 budget, and in a studio they weren’t supposed to be in. Having only been a band for a week at the time, The Wrecks managed to capture their very distinct sound in only three songs. Considering that some bands take much longer to figure this out, I give these guys mad credit.
Performing second on the Last Young Renegade Tour is the up and coming pop punk band known as Waterparks. Originally from Houston, Texas and forming in 2011, these guys are already on their way to becoming the next big thing in the genre. After signing with Equal Vision Records in 2015, and under the management of pop punk veterans Benji and Joel Madden of the chart-topping band Good Charlotte, Waterparks opened for bands like Never Shout Never and Sleeping with Sirens, and released their debut full-length album Double Dare in November of 2016. The third and final band to open for ATL on their tour right now, though, may just be the most interesting yet. SWMRS consists of brothers Cole and Max Becker, as well as Sebastian Mueller, and Joey Armstrong, better known as the son of punk rock royalty, Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day.
Though they’ve been making music since 2004 under various other band names, SWMRS officially released their first full album together in 2016 and soon after signed with the infamous pop punk record label, Fueled By Ramen. The debut album entitled Drive North was produced by friend and fellow peer, Zac Carper of the punk rock band, Fidlar, and is really an excellent representation of the kind of band SWMRS really are. Influenced by musical legends The Beach Boys and the Ramones, Drive North is full of fast-paced, guitar driven tracks, that combined with the unique vocal stylings of the Becker brothers, will no doubt remind listeners of the Sex Pistols. In fact, fans of original punk rock will likely fall in love almost immediately with SWMRS because of their distorted sound and riotous attitude.
With a line-up like this one, it’s no wonder The Last Young Renegade tour is receiving a slew of positive online reviews, throwing out statements like “it was everything we wished for.” It’s been said that all three opening bands have been coming out swinging, keeping the audience engaged and interested with their energetic performances. A friend of mine actually described Max and Cole Becker’s (of SWMRS) movement style and mannerisms on stage as being reminiscent of Iggy Pop and even Kurt Cobain. All three opening bands have been referred to as “fun bands to see live,” and it’s a good thing, too because it’s also been said that All Time Low have brought their A game with them on this tour. Bringing out the inner emo kid in everyone, All Time Low know exactly how to entertain their fans.
Aside from being successful due to all the talent that’s on the bill, the Last Young Renegade Tour is also so appealing and awesome because in a very nostalgic way, it kind of brings everything full circle within the pop punk community. For the band who once were a supporting act on countless tours opening for many of their favorite bands, this headlining tour must feel surreal, like a whole different level of success in more than one way. Trying to prove their worth as a band, win over fans, and earn their own spot within the genre, Alex Gaskarth, Jack Barakat, Zack Merrick, and Rian Dawson (the four now near thirty-year-olds that make up All Time Low) discovered just how grueling it can really be trying to survive in a genre that sees few success stories on major levels that artists in other genres see. A lot of blood, sweat and tears no doubt went into becoming the band that ATL are today.
Green Day, Blink 182, New Found Glory, Fall Out Boy…it’s clear that All Time Low have learned from the best in pop punk. Whether in the way they interact with their fans, or how they perform on stage, or in the music they create, the bands that once ruled the pop punk scene have no doubt left their impact on the bands that followed in their footsteps. I think it goes without saying that All Time Low are one of those bands, and today they serve as role models and heroes in the eyes of bands coming up in this new breed of pop punk. Bringing out new and up and coming bands like SWMRS, Waterparks, and The Wrecks on tour with them this year shows All Time Low not only care about the future of pop punk, but that they’re also very much aware of and in tune with their fans and what will appeal to them.
All Time Low have been a fan favorite in the pop punk scene for a long time now, since very early on in their career, actually. Although some of their albums may not have done so well commercially, they were favored by ATL’s fans, and in pop punk that’s ultimately what matters most. When you’ve been a band for as long as these guys have, and especially in the pop punk genre, I think there comes a point where you have to ask yourselves if you’re just always gonna be that band that continues to sing about the same topics you were singing about for the last umpteen years, or if you’re going to take the risk and branch out a little, expand your sound and lyrical subject matter. So when the band released their seventh studio album a few months ago titled Last Young Renegade, I think they might have surprised quite a few people.
Last Young Renegade is, in my opinion, one of the best albums released in 2017. While it’s definitely a bold move for ATL, it’s also a progressive step in their career. The use of more synthesizers versus guitar riffs may catch you off guard at first listen, but by the end of the album you really kind of feel like you just listened to the love child of Blink 182 and The Chainsmokers because that’s ultimately what it will remind you of. Listening to the album in its entirety, it’s clear that All Time Low were influenced by various artists from different genres and their unique sounds when they were making this album. Lyrically the band are tackling more mature subject matter this time around, which makes for a much darker record but also simultaneously might scare fans who are used to ATL’s more rambunctious, party anthem vibes from earlier releases.
What All Time Low did with this new album was risky, but it also makes sense. A band like them can continue to play it safe and release relatively the same album over and over with only slight variances, but it will eventually ruin them. The best bands take chances and expand their sound because they know they owe it to their fans to give the best records they think they can make. Last Young Renegade is jammed with one big pop hook after another, and even on the more serious songs (“Dirty Laundry” and “Nightmares”) where the tone is much more somber, the hooks still pull you in the way a good ATL song always does. The band should be applauded for their ballsy attempt at something new and daring because what they ended up with is a fantastic addition to their catalogue that blends multiple sounds together in order to create next level pop punk.
I’ve always been a fan of All Time Low, but while writing this article (like any good writer) I went back and listened to the band’s entire catalogue. Every album, front to back, multiple times. And ya know what I learned? Their music catalogue is FULL of fun, catchy as hell, lyrically entertaining and genuine, dance worthy, RAF pop punk jams. In fact, if there was a pop punk prom and only one band’s music could be chosen as the soundtrack, I think All Time Low should definitely be in the Top Five choices. They’re part of the soundtrack that shaped an era of music that many my age might feel has come and gone, when in reality ATL are keeping the pop punk scene alive and well.
The Last Young Renegade tour is happening now and coming to a city near you. If you’re a fan of pop punk and find yourself missing its glory days, then prepare your best side-swept hairstyle, grab one of those old studded belts from your closet you hung on to for sentimental reason, and ready to put your best eyeliner skills to use because this tour is the perfect cure for that nostalgia you’ve been feeling. Fair warning, be prepared to rock out like it’s 2007.
Catch this tour:
JUL 29 THE FILLMORE PHILADELPHIA, PA
JUL 31 CENTRAL PARK SUMMERSTAGE NEW YORK, NY
AUG 02 RAMS HEAD LIVE BALTIMORE, MD
AUG 03 RAMS HEAD LIVE BALTIMORE, MD
AUG 04 THE RITZ RALEIGH, NC
AUG 05 TABERNACLE ATLANTA, GA
AUG 06 HOUSE OF BLUES LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL