February 01, 2010 - Hopeless Records
Going "unplugged" with the help of MTV has been a rite of passage for artists since 1989. It's been a way for established singers to show another side as well as for hungry up-and-comers to prove themselves. Since the franchise's 2009 reboot, the featured talent on the show has been distinctly of "now," with the likes of Paramore, Katy Perry and All Time Low performing shorter sets for the ADD-addled set. What you lose in the shorter runtime is what made older Unplugged releases like those of Nirvana or 10,000 Maniacs so classic -- the band no longer have the wiggle room to pay homage to their musical forefathers or experiment with deep back catalog in a different setting.
What you do get on All Time Low's six-song Unplugged EP is a sprinkling of their Hopeless Records catalog, with the two most popular songs from each of their two full-lengths and one EP getting the acoustic treatment. ATL have been playing acoustic sets for years now, so the older songs should be tight and crisp, but strangely, it's those--specifically the incredibly lackluster rendition of Put Up Or Shut Up's "Coffee Shop Soundtrack"--which show the most signs of aging. "Jasey Rae," the other Put Up Or Shut Up track, fares slightly better, and is actually interesting due to an imperfection--Alex Gaskarth's vocals, typically note-for-note perfect, crack and strain on the song's final line, "and my words are as timed as the beating in my chest." It shows that this kid is human, after all.
The set-closing "Dear Maria, Count Me In" from 2007's So Wrong, It's Right still sounds as fresh as it did the first time people heard it, and holds up well with the acoustic treatment (even if there are some pretty off-key audience members singing along); Wrong's "Remembering Sunday" gets a boost from Kate Voegele, making it a worthy addition to the tracklisting, as well. The band's two Nothing Personal cuts, "Weightless" and "Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don't)," feature a bit of a bizarre choice by drummer Rian Dawson to overuse bongos (honestly, nothing good in rock 'n' roll has ever come from bongos), but Gaskarth is able to carry both songs to strong finishes.
So the big question is should someone plunk down a 10-spot to pick up this CD/DVD? Well, considering the band have already officially released half of these songs in acoustic versions on other releases, the exclusivity of Unplugged isn't really there. All you really end up with is 23 minutes of a pretty good pop-punk band playing their best songs without amps, and if that appeals to you, odds are you've already pre-ordered the thing.