Saturday, 12 November 2011

Review: Four Year Strong - In Some Way, Shape or Form

 Many will have grown an attachment to Massachusetts' Four Year Strong after falling for the delightful hardcore pop punk that found a harder edge in it's blaze of punk riffs and juddering breakdowns, but also had a sense of charming quirkiness about them, along with an ability to laugh at themselves as they were going along which they displayed effortlessly on last years Enemy of the World. Cut to 2011, and the group are now looking to lose this sense of quirkiness that has gained them such a considerable following as their fourth offering In Some Way, Shape or Form sees the quartet looking to be taken more seriously and join many of their their peers in removing their pop punk element and becoming a genuine rock band.

 If you enjoyed FYS for their quirkier and more fun side, this may be seen as a turn-off, but it wouldn't be fair to dismiss it entirely, many songs here do increase their sense of fury, intensity and their desire to carry a serious message with it, but they do it very well and manage to redefine themselves from what they used to be. Something that's also been gained from the loss of synthesized effects and consequently, synth player Josh Lyford. Opener The Infected is an instant sign that the group are looking to become different, sounding fresh and exciting as Dan O'Connor and Alan Day produce furious and powerful hardcore riffs, taking listeners into a whirlwind of scuzzy and energetic hardcore rock with sweeping hooks and soaring vocals.
 These musical elements make up much of In Some Way, Shape or Form, be it in an angrier form like in Heaven Wasn't Built to Hold Me, or in a more uplifting form such as Just Drive, always showing the band produce a catchy melody and a remaining devotion to the more metallic element of their music.
 Showing a greater influence from modern rock bands, as opposed to punk acts, Stuck in the Middle has a familiarity and shows a large influence from the Foo Fighters, particularly with Wasting Light in mind. However, that's not to say that the punk spirit is forever lost here, Fairweather Fan is a strong punk song with massive spiked riffage, although don't expect to find their sense of fun in that song. Fairweather Fan is by far the angriest song on the album.
 With this is mind, their desire to become a more serious rock band comes at a cost. The album seems to be lacking a certain sense of enjoyment with the fun elements of previous on which they thrived and it's a little sad to see that fade away. It also means a loss of personality for many songs and less stand out moments. There are few tracks here that people would sing along to at shows, though mass yelling of "Don't fix it if it hasn't broken yet!" are likely to remain stronger than ever.
 Overall, In Some Shape or Form, despite being a solid collection of songs, does make it evident that if a band is looking to widen it's audience they may lose some of their original sparkle in the progress.n However, it is a very gripping listen and upholds a sense of catchiness and heaviness that FYS have become loved for. If you like your hardcore music, this will be enjoyable, as it's clear to see a sense of maturation within a band who have tried to show off the genre's poppier side. Perhaps the cynical view of pop punk coming to an end may be coming true after all.

 Four Year Strong's In Some Way, Shape or Form is out now via Decaydance. The band will tour the UK in January with A Loss for Words.


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