With a career spanning almost twenty years, it’s hard to believe that Four Year Strong haven’t released any new music since 2015’s self-titled effort. Back and armed with their seventh full-length, ‘Brain Pain’, they prove that great things come to those who wait.
‘It’s Cool’ opens up the record, and at first it begs the question of a new direction as the delicate choir style vocals are curiously juxtaposed against a gritty guitar riff. But, before you have time to decide how you feel about it, the killer chorus comes into full effect tearing into a pop-punk frenzy which paves the way for the entire album.
One of the main things that has always identified Four Year Strong apart from other pop-punk bands is their blend of hardcore hooks with melodic vocals, but this album really feels like instrumentally they’ve tried to take it up a notch. The intro for ‘Crazy Pills’ and the record’s titular track are heavy and raucous, almost to the point that you’d never guess it was about to lead into tracks from a pop-punk band.
The standout on offer, ‘The Worst Part About Me’, will be one that long-time fans will utterly adore. It’s anthemic sing-along nature will be incredibly received at live shows, and hones in on a very nostalgic sound that we heard a decade ago in the band’s ‘Enemy Of The World’ era.
The choice to slow things down with just one simple ballad is very cleverly implemented. ‘Be Good When I’m Gone’ gives as good as any of the high-octane tracks on offer, yet this change of pace highlights a different side to Four Year Strong, one of growing up and starting families. Delicately written as an open letter to their children, backed with a beautifully acoustic lullaby melody. It’s undeniably one that requires your attention for a few minutes to really appreciate the lyrics that are being spoken.
Another credit to the album is the way in which they’ve really experimented with various aspects of pop-punk. ‘Get Out Of My Head’ provides a distorted repetitive guitar riff, which reflects a 90s era Green Day sound, whilst melodically it’s very poppy almost to the point where it feels like a reworked track created for a ‘Punk Goes Pop’ album. This mismatch of styles work perfectly alongside each other.
Switching to a more contemporary style of pop-punk, ‘Learn To Love The Lie’ feels clean and polished. The story of a relationship where both people are too scared to call it off, it’s the kind of track you’d see emerge from the likes of State Champs and Neck Deep. Yet, rather than seeing this as a bit of a cop out, it’s actually refreshing to see Four Year Strong adapt and evolve with how the scene is changing whilst still having their very own unique sound and style.
It feels like ‘Brain Pain’ is the record that has really redefined who Four Year Strong are becoming. Although it may have been half a decade since their last release, clearly this gap has lent itself perfectly to the record. They sound stronger than they have in a long time, and it’s safe to say that they’re going to be standing their ground on the pop-punk scene for years to come yet.