Ten years ago I was just twelve years old. I was in Year 8, and I was living life as a below-average boffin battling the British secondary school system one day at a time with my pals, who were all in the same league as me. Elsewhere, four friends from Baltimore were making raw-sounding pop-punk-by-numbers about strippers, beaches, and breakdowns; ultimately, it resulted in a sophomore record from a small-time band called All Time Low in the shape of So Wrong, It’s Right. Whilst it took me another three years to find their music, this album was as life-changing for them as it was for me, and I’m actually feeling older than Abe Simpson does on the regular at the realisation that it’s ten long years old.
I’m now 22, and whilst Maria hasn’t counted me in, I have been turned on by a Holly, tried finding my calling at night, witnessed my own breakdown after being stuck in this town, and realised that dreams only last for a night – when you’re a dozen vodka and cranberries down and sitting on your ass in a kebab shop post-Propaganda. All Time Low were a bunch of young adolescents growing up and making mistakes, and they wrote it all down in the form of songs and through nothing short of a small miracle, it found its way from Baltimore to Britain and began to soundtrack a generation of misunderstood youths making mistakes and growing up ungracefully. Along with the likes of Cute Is What We Aim For, We The Kings, You Me At Six, and The Maine, All Time Low began to be the go-to bands for teens who needed pop music that wasn’t pop, rock music that wasn’t rock, and most importantly, music that was real. And boy, was So Wrong, It’s Right real.
I always find writing retrospectives a weird thing to do. Albums are their for our interpretation, and often or not, we interpret things entirely different to everyone else because of a gazillion different factors. So, here’s twelve lyrics from the twelve songs that make up So Wrong, It’s Right, and the meanings, stories, and interpretations I’ve taken and had from them. Share yours in the comments at the bottom of this blog (get it?)
“I’m just a face for every picture, a smile for your scrap-books, and a story to be told”
This Is How We Do was a mission statement and a self-prophetic anthem wrapped up into one, a cocktail of confidence, testosterone and angst, and it kicked off So Wrong, It’s Right with a bang. “We’re the party, you’re the people, and this is how we do” – All Time Low, ten years ago, were rejected by Fueled By Raman, and rummaging round for some luck, and yet now, with a number one album on our fair isle – in way of 2015’s Future Hearts – and arena tours under their belts, they’re literally the party and we’re literally their people, and when they say this is how we do, they generally do what they say they do, and as self-prophetic as the lyrics are, they truly are a face for every picture, a smile for their fans scrap books, and are always the subjects of countless stories – and a few disturbing fanfics.
“Out here the hills roll on for miles, the sun is like my own sense of direction, I’m always drawn to each horizon, when it’s rising, when it sets, but all I can think about is sex, and playing one more game of six-cup, in the backyard at The Wedge”
If ‘This Is How We Do’ was the self-prophesising testosterone-fueled confidence-aping mission statement, ‘Let It Roll’ was the antidote of over-confidence, the blue pill that brings you snap back to reality, oops, there’s the gravity…of the situation you’ve got yourself into. When I first heard this album, I was a fifteen year old socially-awkward mess who wanted the world – or just the really hot girl across the desk in Maths – who in his daydreams was the king of the castle but in reality was the peasant’s peasant. ‘Let It Roll’ is one of my favourite songs on the record, it’s up-beat, it’s feel-good, and it’s ’07 pop-punk in a nutshell, and yet it’s a real song about the harsh reality of real life: “I’m wide awake and thinking with my pillow on the floor, that maybe I’m just wasting my time dreaming in a harsh reality, I don’t wanna wake up just to find out I was deceived.” Ambition is scary, and boy were these guys feeling the pressure. They were still teenagers, still trying to work out what the hell it was they wanted from the world, and yet here they were, already on album number two, trying to make it but wanting to break it at the same time. If this isn’t relatable, then what is? To be honest, even now, at 22, just out of university and stuck in a part time retail job I don’t want, this is relevant.
“Meet me on Thames street, I’ll take you out though I’m hardly worth your time, in the cold you look so fierce but I’m warm enough, ‘cause the tensions like a fire”
Six Feet Under The Stars is a straight-up hustlers anthem, and yet a lot of All Time Low’s current fanbase doesn’t even have a clue what it is or why it’s as banging as it is to some of us older fans. When they dropped it early-on at a UK gig earlier this year, I was buzzing more than a 90’s raver on an E, and yet I was surrounded by uninspired teenage girls who hadn’t heard it and didn’t know the words, and weren’t old enough to pass another bottle of that sweet Jager. It was like being thrown through a minefield of nail-bombs. As someone who is socially awkward, and as confident on the keys as a Geordie Shore cast-mate is on a night on the ‘toon, I’m as awkward as Mr Bean in person and a lot of the lyrics in this song are exactly what I was doing then, and still do now. I’ll drink all you want to give me if it keeps you going, and even though I’m way out of your league, I’m gonna give it a go. I mean, I took this song so literally I let a girl I fancied at a party pour me drinks – which were comprised of triple shots of vodka and nothing much else – just because it was keeping her around.
“So chain me up, I’m in too deep, too much of you is never enough”
Holly (Would You Turn Me On?) is another one of All Time Low’s testosterone-riddled rants of teenage angst. I actually dated a girl called Holly, and I really wished she would turn me on, because I was addicted to her. Or maybe it was the fact she liked Black Veil Brides, I don’t know. She broke up with me on Valentines, without even a text, she just changed our Facebook status (which should have been illegal, right?) and like my boy Alex Gaskarth once sang: “you took what you wanted, you got it, you know it…you made me, you broke me, you saved me, I’m crazy but I’m not done.” Holly is the post-night out jam that teaches you the moral of the story of your night: don’t chase a girl you know is going to hurt your ego when you can’t pull her, even if she is teasing you more than those Pizza Hut texts you get on the daily. Also, there’s a couple of lyrics here that show up elsewhere on certain tracks on Nothing Personal, which is kind of weirdly cool, and sort of disturbing, but eh, who doesn’t like sequels?
“Everybody’s singing like we’re crazy in love, we made a dizzy mess of everything and it was enough to bring all the boys and all the girls together”
The Beach is a song I usually skipped past quite quickly, whether it was in chronological order or on shuffle, but on deep reflection, for it’s simple stereotypical pop-punk party life lyrics, it’s actually quite an apt song for reminiscing over wasted youth that wasn’t really wasted, was it? The above lyric reminds me of the mess of the summer of 2011, or the year as a whole, where I spent most of my days in Abington Park with the lads, and our group of gals who most of us had dated like a roundtable by the end of the year. In the very same park, I’d got drunk on more than one occasion, and was even more of a mess in my friend’s bedrooms smashed on alcopops and Frosty Jack’s – but we were together and it was everything.
“Then in the field you’ll be the showgirl of the home team, I’ll be the narrator telling another tale of the American dream”
Dear Maria, Count Me In is possibly All Time Low’s infamous anthem, the one song almost everyone knows – it’s been overplayed more than any Justin Bieber song and it’s an alt-kids go-to pre-drinks jam, and yeah, it may be about strippers, but it’s one hell of a hit, ends almost all of their gigs, and is another one of their self-prophetic sing-alongs. Alex Gaskarth is often telling tales of the American Dream and both sides of its story; the double-edged sword of fame has been a topical subject for the band of late, with Life Of The Party from Last Young Renegade feeling somewhat relevant here. “There’s a story at the bottom of this bottle, and I’m the pen” – nine times out of ten, a lot of All Time Low’s songs revolve around a girl, involve some sort of party or alcoholic beverage, and are all part of growing up, thus there are multitudes of bottles with stories at the bottom, and Gaskarth and co. are pens ready to write, always. I feel like this is something I’ve come to rely on as a self-defensive coping mechanism – most of the lyrics I write down as a way of dealing with my feelings revolve around a girl, and the consumption of alcohol – there’s a story at the bottom, and I’m most definitely the pen. Unfortunately, I haven’t fallen in love with a stripper…yet.
“Tonight I’m dressed up in gold, you’ve got me fucked up and sold; you talk like you’re famous, you’re shameless”
Right, let’s be honest here, we’ve all been in awe of a girl who genuinely talks a load of crap, walks the walk, and genuinely believes the sun shines out of their backside. It’s happened. Hell, even vice versa with guys. “You’ve got me fucked up and sold” is one of the greatest lyrics this album holds, and on Shameless, All Time Low talk us through those high-school relationships, the ones where it’s all he-said she said gossip-column material. That girl thinks she’s this and that, but really she’s just a shameless good-for-nothing…you catch my drift. Alex Gaskarth writes like he’s the nobody who this girl dresses up to be far more than that, until she gets what she wants – she acts like she’s more than she is in making him feel like he’s more than he is. Above all, I just love singing this song in the shower.
“Forgive me I’m trying to find, my calling, I’m calling at night, I don’t mean to be a bother, but have you seen this girl?”
Remembering Sunday, my old friend, it’s been one hell of a ride. The curveball of So Wrong, It’s Right, it’s become the anti-ballad of teenage boys across the land, and the anti-love song the ladies of the world needed. This is one of the few songs that’s managed to reduce me to tears at various times in my life, and over different girls. For me though, I will always listen to this song and think of the true meaning of this song: it’s not about one single girl, it’s not about the ex you let your mind trick you into thinking you still love – it’s about what that ex represented, what that ex was at that time in your life. It’s the idea, not the person. Remembering Sunday, for me, is being stuck on the scent of a moment, struggling to shake it off as you search for a replica.
“We get high, we let go, we’ve got more than we know, my friends are a different breed, my friends are everything”
Vegas is one of their most underrated songs from their earlier days in my opinion, and it’s got some great gut-punch lyrics and a real hook that’d go down heavy in an arena these days. The lyric above is highly representative of my life, of when I first heard this album and of where I’m at right now. This concept of getting high, letting go, and having more than we know; it’s entirely the case, isn’t it? We’ve got way more than we know – I’ve always spent so much time wallowing in my own cesspit of self-pity, forgetting to realise that my friends truly are everything and every drunken night I’ve shared, every game of football I’ve played, and every rite of passage we’ve shared, we’ve all got those memories stored, and they’re there for life – it’s more than we know.
“I’m on my way to striking out, go to sleep with the pressure of everyone watching and waiting, they’re yours for the taking, but I still have my doubts”
Stay Awake (Dreams Only Last For A Night) is perhaps a more accurate representation of the situation I find myself in right now at this moment of time in my life than ever before, a welcome break from their lustful laments that riddle the record. Stay Awake is a battle between the devil and the angel on the shoulders of a young Alex Gaskarth who’s struggling to stay above the sinking ship All Time Low were before they recorded So Wrong It’s Right. Whilst I’m not in a band, I’ve got a fair few eyes on me – mostly family members – and there’s always that added pressure ambition and early signs of success brings, and this song is the perfect summary of how dealing with that feels. “This ship is sinking, I’m thinking I’m done for, I’ll watch as the sails disappear under water cause I’m no captain yet” – I overthink myself into this mentality every single day, and yet as Alex sings in this song, the devil and angel constantly at war in his mind and on his shoulders: “Believe you, me, I’ll give them everything” – and believe you me, I will.
“Come one, come all, you’re just in time, to witness my first breakdown, cause there’s a mile gone for every minute passed when I’m wasting space in this town”
Come One, Come All is probably my favourite song from So Wrong It’s Right, an all-out anthem that is as much fun to dance to as it is to sing to and is at the end of the day, an entirely relatable song when you’re facing the rest of your life post-university at 22 when all your friends are settling down with families and solid jobs and you’re selling clothes to elderly people and struggling to get the girl you’ve been catching feels for, for like, forever. I read a theory once that Come One, Come All is one big metaphor for life, and that the radio DJ is actually god. I was thinking about it, it’s legit. Music, for me, is my life, and everything I listen to is like a soundtrack of my life on a day-for-day basis. “because your playlist is killing me” – this metaphorical playlist could be the side of Alex’s life, or yours, or mine, that just isn’t going right, it’s not the vision we had for our lives, and we want it to change – we can’t skip songs on the radio just like we can’t skip moments we don’t like in our lives. This got real deep real fast but it’s true, Come One Come All is one big bag of 3am feels. Oh, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to have a breakdown if I don’t get out of the bloody hellmouth of a town they call Northampton.
“You’ve got me thinking that lately I’ve been wishing the television set would show me more than just a picture of the things I’ve grown to detest”
Poppin’ Champagne is criminally underplayed on the live circuit these days by the boys in the band, but it’s still a bonafide banger and one of the first All Time Low songs I ever heard after I was first exposed to them through Weightless on MTV Rocks. It’s weird, but I’m actually running out of things to say, and there’s not really much for me to say on this one other than the fact I fucking love singing “You’ve got me poppin’ champagne.” Although, whilst we’re all deep on the latter side of this album, that line about the television set is one hell of a whistle-blowing mind-blower: when you think about it, all the media feeds us through the telly are the things we don’t want to see, the things we grow to hate, and that’s a real drab way to consume the world, right?
So Wrong, It’s Right is more than just a sophomore album, it’s more than just a breakthrough record. It’s a collection of songs that are reflective of the past, present, and future of my life, and I’m sure that whilst I associate these songs with certain aspects of my life, I’m sure there are a billion other stories written at the bottom of a billion other bottles by a billion other pens thanks to these songs. Ten years on and still going strong, All Time Low may not be punking their pop like they did in 2007, but that doesn’t take away from this being one hell of an underrated gem.