Four Year Strong embark on an odyssey to recreate much-loved hits and dig up previously unheard songs that were lost along the way.
The last time I saw Four Year Strong live was in a sweaty Camden KOKO where they played their first album, Rise Or Die Trying, in its entirety earlier this year. It was an evening of awe, accompanied by a heavy dose of nostalgia. Now, Four Year Strong are tending tenderly to my eardrums with a new album of ‘rarities, unheard originals and re-imagined favourites’.
So, Some of You Will Like This, Some of You Won’t (their words not mine). I can see the motive behind calling this hybrid Four Year Strong album such. It isn’t conventional in any way. It isn’t a brand-new feature length but equally, it isn’t a collection of hits simply played on acoustic guitars. With this undoubtedly comes risk. A risk that Four Year Strong are surely accustomed to since their third album, In Some Way, Shape or Form, was hit by some heavy criticism from diehard fans for being too different from their early melodic hardcore mould. But they should worry not, for this collection of songs is something to be cherished by long-time fans as the effort put in is apparent.
I’d say the word that encapsulates this album best is dynamism. The songs are unconventional, for sure, but more than that they are engaging. Whether it is Go Down In History where there is a space-age-euphoria induced by the inclusion of synths ephemerally (in fact, the lyrical rhetoric fits this scene rather nicely) or the stamping kick drum and guitar slides in the Middle 8 of We All Float Down Here that is reminiscent of the entire Sons of Anarchy soundtrack. Listeners are also treated to the happy-go-lucky re-shape of Who Cares? and the swinging rhythms of a now Blues-y, Stuck In The Middle.
It is all to be had on this album. In addition, Abandon Ship (an iconic track stapled to their debut album), ballad on this tracklist. It may seem surreal but a ballad it is and a ballad that I can’t help but enjoy. To a slower tempo, with fewer strings attached, the lyrical content rings far truer. Similarly, the album opener It Must Really Suck To Be Four Year Strong Right Now is just as beautiful in its new serenading form and is my favourite of the bunch. Each track places a creative twist on the band’s trusted sound that truly displays their ability as musicians to change things up because why not? If you’ve got it, flaunt it.
But with the re-imagined tracks also come the new ones. Nice To Know fits seamlessly into this track listing. It’s an invigorating and empowering song, similar to One Step At A Time, that leaves you feeling more positive about the world. Despite never appearing on a studio album, Your Ego Is Writing Checks Your Body Can’t Cash has a feeling of familiarity running through it, with vocal melodies that make me feel like it could quite easily have been on RODT once upon a time. And finally, to cap it all off, fan-favourite rarity, For Our Fathers has been re-recorded after having been uploaded to YouTube on Fathers’ Day, 2011 in a personal ode to fatherhood. It’s a truly apt ending to the musical journey that the men in Four Year Strong take you down.
Nevertheless, the sceptic within me is already hoping for another full length as, despite this being a great collection of tracks, there is a sense of it being a cache of bonus tracks (this is only natural and, to a degree, its purpose). But I can’t complain too much – for the band to embark on a world tour celebrating Rise Or Die Trying on its decadal anniversary AND to release this album has made 2017 a great one for the Worcester four piece.
In all honesty, I’d recommend listening to Four Year Strong’s previous albums before diving head first into this one, unless you fancy some sonic-confusion because it is certainly atypical; a representation of what Four Year Strong can do and not what they are necessarily known for. Enjoy it regardless, it’s a treat.
Guest Writer: Euan Dickson.