Review : Four Year Strong - In Some Way, Shape, Or Form
Popmatters“We live in a time bomb that’s ticking down” begins the lead single “Just Drive” off Four Year Strong’s fourth album (and second in 18 months) In Some Way, Shape, Or Form and it can easily be seen as a comment on the lifespan of hardcore (emo-core, whatever you want to call it) bands as it could be seen as anything else. Glassjaw disappeared for half a decade, and Brand New and Thrice never lived up to the worlds of both commercial and creative potential behind their initial albums. Is there a real flag-bearer for the genre at the moment? It would seem that a lot of people are backing the Worcester, Mass., quartet (after the departure of keyboard whiz Josh Lyford earlier this year) as hardcore’s “Next Big Thing”.
Four Year Strong are a lovable, fun bunch from Massachusetts that had early success by mixing just as much enjoyable sing-a-long to counter-balance the often off-putting, nonsensical screaming. They were making music as if to say, “We’re just blowing off steam, now let’s have a little fun”.
Sadly, it appears they forgot the second half of that equation on In Some Way, Shape, Or Form recorded earlier this year in New Jersey with producer David Bendeth (Kaiser Chiefs, Taking Back Sunday, A Day to Remember). In Some Way comes off as less an attempt to further explore the band’s intriguing roots (intense, loud verses leading into light-hearted, catchy breakdowns) and more an attempt to match the radio bro-rock that lights up the FM dial and still manages to sell records these days. Yes, cheesy as it is to say, In Some Way, Shape, Or Form is closer to Hinder or Three Days Grace than it is anything on the punk side of things. And that’s really a missed opportunity for a band that clearly has some interesting elements going for it.
Take the best song on the album, “Stuck in the Middle”, a tune that mixes 1980s, Tom Petty-esque Americana rock with the best stuff from the group’s last record, Enemy of the Word. This is a band capable of some truly bizarre, enjoyable moments, which makes it all the more upsetting to see this record come off as a big swing and a miss. They’ve fallen into the trap many hard rock bands have stepped in over the past few years: taking themselves way too seriously. ...full text
SputnikmusicIt must really suck to be Four Year Strong right now. A year ago, hordes of fans cried this out ironically as they rallied around FYS' landmark LP, Enemy of the World. While there wasn’t anything particularly unique about Enemy of the World, it did just about everything right: awesome hooks, fun riffage, tasteful breakdowns, and they never took themselves too seriously. The end result was a string of awesome, feel-good summer jams like ‘Wasting Time’ or ‘On A Saturday’ or even the anthemic title track. I’d be lying to say that it wasn’t one of, if not the, definitive summer album of 2010.
Fast forward a year later, and the fans are no longer joking.
As soon as the band released the first song from their latest LP, In Some Way, Shape or Form, the general reaction was ‘what?’ And it’s easy to see why: gone were the anthemic choruses and breakdowns, not to mention the addition of an uncanny resemblance to the Foo Fighters which prompted fans to prematurely declare the album ‘Foo Year Strong.’ Lead single ‘Just Drive’ didn’t exactly help things out either. It’s actually a pretty alright song and has a decent hook, but lead single material? Hardly. The slow paced song is more akin to a third or fourth single, as a record label starts to ween off promoting an album.
While I would hardly call Four Year Strong sellouts as many have expressed, it would be just plain wrong to say that this album is on par with their past work. As mentioned, ‘Stuck in the Middle’ IS a Foo Fighters song. It’s a pretty decent track, but it’s not Four Year Strong. Gone are the energetic beardos and in is a band that is grasping at straws for hooks with mass appeal and compromise. The Foo Fighters comparison was perhaps a bit overstated, but the album turns out to be a watered down version of Four Year Strong all the same.
The album just reeks with half-hearted attempts to appeal to as many people as possible. ‘Stuck in the Middle’ will get new fans from the radio, ‘Fairweather Fan’ is an awful attempt to retain their fanbase (including the incredibly predictable gang shout of ‘RISE OR DIE TRYING’), and some sort of masochist will probably dig the questionable Queen-esque intro on closer ‘Only the Meek Get Pinched.’ While their former blend of pop-punk wasn’t the most creative thing in the world, nothing has ever been this obvious. Every song follows the same verse-chorus-verse structure, complete with an ending chorus where the instruments dropping out. The riffs, the pauses, the hooks, everything is just super predictable. ...full text
AbsolutepunkWhen Worcester, Mass.’s proudest sons parted ways with keyboardist/yeller/hype-man Josh Lyford, fans suspected that Four Year Strong might be aiming for a more straightforward rock sound on their fourth full-length record, In Some Way, Shape or Form. Not many, however, could have been anticipating the stretch the now-four-piece made after 2010’s insanely addicting Enemy of the World.
Four Year Strong is still very much the same band at its core, but instead of playing lighthearted guitar riffs and breakdowns meant to make you smile inside, the band has evolved into a beast of a heavy, radio-y rock group. This sounds negative – and kids who yearn for the days of yellow and purple Rise Or Die Trying LPs might already hate this album – but even though FYS has certainly taken a controversial step in its sound, it’s hardly a bad thing.
Blistering opener “Infected” shows that there’s no real difference in the guitar work or call-and-return vocal action between Alan Day and Dan O’Connor. This band has always been the Day and O’Connor show, with crisp, distorted guitars providing the backdrop for gruff vocal tradeoffs. The difference we see on In Some Way, Shape or Form, frankly, is the presence of corniness. Cheap radio moments are thrown into otherwise solid tracks at times – see the bridge of “Falling On You” or all three and a half minutes of “Stuck In the Middle.”
There are certain standouts on ISWSOF (seriously what a weird-looking acronym), but unfortunately much of the album bleeds together. “Fairweather Fan” will definitely be a crowd-pleaser, with its cries of “We’ve said it before / We’ll say it again / Rise! Or die trying.” The song title carries its share of irony, as Four Year Strong will most likely see a chunk of its original fan base fall off the bandwagon with this record. But with all the new fans they’ll be gaining when the awesomely catchy, 90s-tinged “Just Drive” hits your local rock station, it’s a loss Four Year Strong can bear....full text
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