Album Review: Four Year Strong – “Four Year Strong”

Four Year Strong
Four Year Strong
(Pure Noise Records)

There’s a reason that Four Year Strong’s Wikipedia page describes them as “an American rock band from Worcester, Massachusetts”–because out of all the possible genres of rock, Four Year Strong is not entirely sure what genre they wish to be. While the group’s latest full-length release may be self-titled, it still has yet to help the listener fully define the band.

From pop punk to breakdowns to intense technical riffs the self-titled record was all over the place. Combining pop punk with hardcore is nothing new–A Day To Remember has been doing it for their entire career–and Four Year Strong has always been linked up into this strange “popcore” category, whether they liked it or not. This time, however, the reluctance to make a decision to go all the way in one direction over another really handicapped this album as a whole.

There is a strong, energetic signature sound carried throughout this album with highlight tracks like “Stolen Credit Card!” and “I Hold Myself In Contempt.” With fast up beats and very well structured moments, the isolated guitars and consistently jammable drum back beats keep the listener engaged throughout. Not to mention, the double tracked vocals of “Stolen Credit Card!” display the widest vocal range presented on the album, something unfortunately seldom seen anywhere else.

This self-titled record’s eleven tracks are sure to be stuck in your head all day, however, as they emulate pop punk sounds, they hold some of the most depressing lyrics that would fit right in with early 2000s emo. “I’ll watch the world go up in flames/I’ll strike a match to help you do the same” (“We All Float Down Here”), “I suffered from a classic case of nobody cares” (“The Sound of Your Heart”), and “I know my days are numbered, so I’m making them count” (“Go Down In History”) are some of the gems that just scream misplaced teen angst. For a band that has been active since 2001, these dismal tropes should probably have matured by now.

My biggest issue with this album is the fact that it could offer so much more but consistently falls short. You can hear that Four Year Strong knows how to write a song and sure as hell can play their instruments, the first thirty seconds of “I’m A Big Bright Shining Star” is evidence enough of that. However, they just can’t quite commit to one direction. Several tracks such as “Wipe Yourself Off, Man. You Dead” and “Here’s To Swimming With Bow-Legged Women” introduce the beginnings of breakdowns, however, never fully commit to them thus feeling unnecessarily weak instead of punchy in a way the song requires. Other tracks like “Who Cares?” just don’t know if they’re a reflection of CBGBs punk, metalcore or pop all jammed into one minute and 55 seconds.

Now don’t get me wrong, Four Year Strong is upbeat, fun, and catchy as hell. It’s easily a go-to album for any summer playlist, it just holds room for improvement and missed opportunities to make a good record a great record. (Natasha Van Duser)

Purchase Four Year Strong here.

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