Review Summary: Your Newest Guilty Pleasure
The cliché paragraph about the genre: nope, here’s Four Year Strong
“Don’t fix it if it hasn’t broken yet”
When you hear those words sang in Enemy of the World
s opening track ‘It Must Really Suck to be Four Year Strong Right Now
’ you will definitely think this by the end of the album; they didn’t take their own advice. Four Year Strong came bursting into the over flooded pop/punk scene back in 08 with their debut Rise or Die Trying and while these five positive, beard-wielding gentlemen had the best intentions, their self stylized ‘happy hardcore’ blend of mainstream friendly pop and chugging hardcore just fell flat on its face. The sugary gimmicks, the overproduction, and the overly flamboyant bright colors might be able to satiate the average twelve year olds taste in music but leaves the rest of the population with just a sugar-induced cavity. With that being said, Four Year Strong already had quite a hole to dig themselves out of when the cover album ‘Explains it All’ came out in the summer of 09. Not only was it unnecessary, it was subpar and hinted to the masses that maybe Four Year Strong’s musical creativity to craft new and fresh songs had ran out, the hole seemed to have been dug six feet underground. But now the year is 2010 and Four Year Strong takes their next swing at the base with Enemy of the World and in an amazing feat of musicianship and creativity they have blasted this one into the top bleachers and out of the damn park.
To call Four Year Strong ‘unique’ is a grievous error. They play a stylized blend of melodic hardcore that has been around since the 90s with bands like Lifetime and Kid Dynamite and has seen a resurgence with bands like A Day to Remember, New Found Glory and, of course, Set Your Goals. But the thing that makes Enemy of the World a standout album in this sea is a list of factors. Four Year Strong have taken all the errors and problems that plagued Rise or Die Trying (which were substantial) and they didn’t just improve them, the completely redesigned it. Four Year Strong have given us eleven anthems of pure energy and youthful enthusiasm that not only beat out Set Your Goals sophomore album ‘This Will Be the Death of Us’, it sets the bar for other bands that few others will most likely reach. Every track on this album is memorable and uplifting, we find no respite, no breaks in this album. Track by track from the Fall Out Boy-esque track ‘On A Saturday
’, to the fiery anthem of ‘What the Hell is a Gigawatt?
’ to the Motion City Soundtrack inspired ‘Flannel is the Color of My Energy
’ Four Year Strong proves that you can take the best that the pop/punk genre can offer, increase the speed to 100 BPS and craft one of the most electrically charged albums offered in a long time.
Here is what makes Enemy of the World such an excellent album. A problem that plagued Rise or Die Trying was the copious amounts of polished production that was heaped upon the instruments. Layer after layer of crystal clear guitars, drums and synths added to the auto-corrected tune of vocalists Dan O’Connor and Alan Day made the listen of their debut to be a choking event. With their sophomore album, Four Year Strong has substantially trimmed down the in-studio production layering. While far from being considered ‘raw’, the production has now taken a backseat to the band and it gives credit to the prowess of the individual band members. Instead of overly polished production we are treated to a more wall-of-sound assault of blaring, over amplified guitars cranked to the max that bands such as Set Your Goals and Lifetime are more accustomed to. The overly layered vocals have also all but disappeared; this now forces vocalists O’Connor and Day to project much more loudly then felt in Rise or Die Trying, giving the album a much needed ‘kick in the pants’ that was painfully lacking in their debut. Keyboardist Josh Lyford has also stepped up to the vocal plate, delivering a hardcore edge to the album with his exceptional yells that sound genuine and heartfelt (listen to ‘What the Hell is a Gigawatt
’). Every aspect in songwriting and musicianship has improved extensively on this album; it’s hard to see that this was the same band that most wrote off as a trendy, scene-girl gimmick.
At the end of the day, is this album worth your time? Definitely. While it might not be enough to change your opinion of the genre, it will not be said that Four Year Strong came out with their guns blazing on this album: they’ve rolled up the flannel sleeves and have pulled the new-era hat back. Aggressive, heavy and heartfelt, Four Year Strong prove that they can take criticism and throw it back in our face with eleven blistering hot tracks of solid melodic hardcore. Set Your Goals and Polar Bear Club are now fading and sound dim; ‘cause its Four Year Strong year to shine. Enemy of the World will carry us from the coldness of winter and bring us straight into summer and will probably go farther then that. A truly impressive album, this is your newest guilty pleasure. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Four Year Strong and they have never sounded better.