It’s widely accepted that Dirty Work was a misstep for All Time Low. It was the first time they’d tried a deviation from the pop-punk that had served them well for three albums, instead going for a much poppier sound. Suffice to say, while they went into it with the best intentions in the world, it felt a bit flat. And while its follow-up Don’t Panic was a much improved throwback to their roots, Future Hearts sees the much-loved Baltimore quartet taking another crack at doing something different. They’ve not completely nailed it yet, but as this sixth album shows, they’re not that far off.

What Future Hearts is comparable to is what Paramore did on their self-titled album in 2013. It takes all of All Time Low’s core elements and values, adds a smattering of electronica for good measure and cranks them up to the highest level of infectiousness. The changes aren’t anything hugely groundbreaking – there’s no danger whatsoever of All Time Low being confused for anyone else – but they are noticeable, and they mainly work. Dancing With A Wolf is the best example – terse buzzes of synth over some of the heaviest guitars the band have put their name to before breaking into a galloping chorus. It’s Future Hearts‘ finest moment, but that’s not to detract from the rest of the album. Runaways‘ subtle twinkling and strings over bouncy guitars and drums are akin to a beefed-up Killers track, and Kids In The Dark pushes on with a vigour that’s hard not to enjoy.

Of course, where the band fly the highest is when they sound most like themselves. Don’t You Go could have easily slotted in on Nothing Personal, both musically and in terms of lyrical content, while lead single Something’s Gotta Give is the classic All Time Low formula given a lick of Weezer-ish paint, and Kicking And Screaming even sees lead vocalist Alex Gaskarth developing a Billie Joe Armstrong-esque snarl at points to suitably complement its Green Day reminiscence.

Going back to the Paramore album comparisons, there’s also a few curveballs that permeate Future Hearts, with varying degrees of success. Missing You and Bail Me Out are much more chilled out than a lot of what the band have previously done, the former adopting an almost country guise with gently plucked banjos, while the latter, a collaboration with Good Charlotte’s Joel Madden, breezes on by with cutely strummed acoustic guitar and so-laid-back-it’s-almost-horizontal vibe. Both of them bizarrely work, but Tidal Waves stands head and shoulders above them. It’s another collaboration, this time with Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus, and is a hugely successful foray into the world of absolutely massive, orchestral power ballads.

On the other side of the coin, uninspired opener Satellite makes little to no impact with its listless thud and general meh-ness, while penultimate track The Edge Of Tonight is a flabby electro ballad that feels too subdued musically, if not entirely vocally. These couple of missteps aside though, Future Hearts sees All Time Low pulling off the album that Dirty Work should have been. It’s mature, varied and should do the band no harm at all at maintaining their current status as full-blown arena conquerors. Quite the opposite actually – it’s essentially a guarantee that arenas will their habitat of choice for the foreseeable future, and it’s hard to think of a band more deserving.

8/10

For fans of: Yellowcard, Paramore, Good Charlotte
Words by Luke Nuttall

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