Photo by: Charlie Martin
All Time Low’s Tell Me I’m Alive (2023) immediately sticks out as the pop-punk band’s most significant all-time low within their discography.
The American pop-punk band has been active since 2003 and just released their ninth studio album, Tell Me I’m Alive, on March 17. The album’s release follows the band’s pandemic-release album, Wake Up, Sunshine (2020), and continues the mainstream pop route that the band explored through their record Wake Up, Sunshine, most notably exemplified with the song “Monsters (feat. Blackbear)” from the same album.
The catch is that while pop instrumentation has dominated All Time Low’s discography since they released Future Hearts (2015), their pop-influenced work in Tell Me I’m Alive fails to grab the listener’s attention, except perhaps for that of middle schoolers who listen to Machine Gun Kelly.
While there is nothing wrong with a pop-rock band naturally progressing into a mainstream sound, Tell Me I’m Alive simply has no redeeming qualities as a pop album. Not only are the lyrics often cringeworthy for a band made up of 40-year-olds, but worse, none of the songs in the album are memorable.
As for cringe lyrics that I wish I had never heard coming out of vocalist Alex Gaskarth’s mouth, the worst offender in the album occurs during the song “I’d Be Fine (If I Never Saw You Again).” Only a few seconds into the song, Gaskarth sings, “There’s no one quite like you, I hate that I like you / But when I’m inside you there’s nothing I won’t do” — yikes.
Although, in theory, openly discussing adult themes such as sexual relationships in music is nothing that artists should shy away from. The execution, however, is not always smooth, as in the case of “I’d Be Fine (If I Never Saw You Again).” If anything, the oddly introduced sexual lyric in the song marked one of the very few moments in the album that piqued my attention, and not in a positive way.
Apart from subpar, cringe-inducing lyrics, the production for the album leans too hard on the band’s trust that they can appeal to a mainstream audience while erasing all remaining traces of uniqueness that the band had prior to Tell Me I’m Alive. Having repeatedly listened to the relatively short record, only 41 minutes long, it is safe to say that few songs on the tracklist feel unique enough in terms of production to be distinguishable from one another or any other mediocre pop-punk band out there.
As for the lowest lows in the record, “Sleepwalking” and “New Religion (feat. Teddy Swims)” come out on top. Both “Sleepwalking” and “New Religion (feat. Teddy Swims)” feel like All Time Low’s desperate attempt to remain hip with the kids a la
Steve Buscimi by impersonating the sound of Maroon 5’s mainstream work while repeating the same two sentences in the lyrics throughout the song.
On the other hand, “The Way You Miss Me” does accomplish standing out in the tracklist. In the song, Gaskarth sings maturely about hating the manipulation that his ex-partner puts him through and hating himself for falling into the vicious circle of going back to his partner after being manipulated into thinking he is missed. This track is easily one of the more touching moments in the album, with a soft pop-punk edge to accompany the intimate lyrics.
Overall, Tell Me I’m Alive tries too hard to appeal to a mainstream demographic while compromising originality and innovation for All Time Low’s discography. Few moments in the album are remarkable, so unless you are a major All Time Low fan, you can skip this album.