Artist: Four Year Strong
Album: In Some Way, Shape, Or Form
Genre: Pop Rock/Punk
Label: Decaydance/Universal Motown
Excuse me while I start this review with a bold statement. You know this whole Pop Punk resurgence that’s been growing over the last 18 months or so? Well it’s going to end. I don’t know when, but like all trends, they eventually come down in terms of popularity. Sure, Pop Punk won’t die but the current height of its popularity isn’t going to last forever.
You know what else? Four Year Strong know this too. Their latest record, In Some Way, Shape, Or Form is, on the surface, a turning point for the band. Now performing as a four-piece; due to the decision to remove Josh Lyford and his synth keyboards from the mix. It was a move that received mixed opinion from fans, and more importantly, was a clear indication of the band evolving.
In Some Way, Shape, Or Form is certainly a different record. On first listen, it is evident that the heard-hitting “easycore” sound has been swapped for a more accessible, and dare I say it, “radio-friendly” rock. But for long time fans shouldn’t worry too much, there are still plenty of favourable hooks and heavy riffs; lead off single, “Just Drive” is a prime example of this. Its catchy chorus will quickly be in your head which makes the track, as a whole, an early highlight. Although lyrically it is somewhat weak and simple, which is more than likely why it’s been chosen as a single.
While the bands sound has changed, it is something not quite evident early on. “The Infected” is a blistering riff-filled number with Dan O’Connor and Alan Day’s back-and-forth vocal work bringing a sense of familiarity to the new Four Year Strong.
However after the stomping “The Security Of The Familiar, The Tranquility Of Repetition ,“ the quartet show the aforementioned accessible sound. “Stuck In The Middle“ isn’t quite the Four Year Strong we know. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a well-paced number and has a half-decent structure but with it’s straight-up anthemic rock sound, it doesn’t quite pull off for the Massachusetts group.
Later on “Falling On You” and “Heaven Wasn’t Built To Hold Me” lean towards the “radio rock” sound. The latter comes off as a hard-hitting Rise Against-like number with its weakly structured “woahs” marking out the chorus, and along with its heavy driven guitars, it all sounds too familiar.
The former is a punchy, anthemic track with good harmonies and strong guitar riffs but despite this, the lyrical style and structure does not have a lasting impact, and on the whole is rather weak.
Later on tracks like “Bring On The World” and “Fight The Future” fail to rescue the record. While they have their favourable characteristics but lack definition. “Bring On The World” has a heavy, powerful riffs that nicely dominate alongside Jake Massuco’s pounding drums and “Fight The Future” has a semi-decent chorus but overall fails to impress.
From “In Some Way, Shape, Or Form,” Four Year Strong can take both positives and negatives. The positives are that it is clear they have the capability of writing good, riff-heavy rock songs, that don’t have to rely on Pop Punk breakdowns or gang vocals (although “Fairweather Fan” does heavily lean towards this style.) However the negatives show that, although they have the potential to be a bigger band (in terms of popularity) and have the songs to do so, In Some Way, Shape, Or Form lacks definition and longevity.
As a result of this, the more favourable moments tend to suffer and after a few listens, it comes off a messy record which doesn’t quite flow thoroughly, and ultimately stand out moments like “Just Drive” and “Falling On You,” falter from the lack of variety this record craves for but is never given.
In the bands discography, this is their weakest release to date but as I said earlier on in this review, Four Year Strong are at (or are heading towards) a crossroads in their career. The departure from the now all too familiar heavy Pop Punk is a daring move, and is one that isn’t going to be welcomed by all. Nevertheless, In Some Way, Shape, Or Form is a turning point and certainly a change in direction for a band, who are looking at the wider picture and realising this Pop Punk wave isn’t going to last forever. It is a record that indicates ambition and musical growth, however it is clear that the new Four Year Strong isn’t quite yet the finished product. If they’re to carry on in this direction, you have to hope that future releases have more definition and leave a more of an impression.
Review written by: Sean Reid