Pop punk. Hardcore punk. Two subgenres whose very names indicate a polar opposition beneath an umbrella term? Two approaches majorly at odds with one another with respect to their understanding of both an attitude and aesthetic? Well, if so, a handful of bands that have emerged in the last few years who fuse the sing-along major key refrain with the machine gun chug breakdown, along with their army of fans putting the bounce into alt club dancefloors, would suggest we are gravely mistaken.
For those who are still sceptical however, Four Year Strong may have produced just the record to convert them. That is, if they can make it past the gaudy artwork (which features the band as a variety of machismo dream alter egos, including a centaur with an assault rifle and some sort of ‘wolf herd’) and the even more cringeworthy songtitles (‘This Body Pays the Bill$’ anyone?). they manage to make the counterintuitive mix of genres sound natural, managing to be at times crushingly heavy, at others anthemic, and yet always effortlessly catchy.
While they aren’t inventing the wheel, and their lyrics aren’t exactly profound, there’s a sense that you wouldn’t want them to be, part of their appeal is in the simple pleasures offered, from the intermittent blasts that announce the opener ‘It Must Really Suck to be Four Year Strong Right Now’, to the glorious gang vocals prevalent throughout tracks such as ‘What the Hell is a Gigawatt?’.
One way in which the album does fall short unfortunately is in its over-production. It lends a saccharine quality to some hooks which could make it palatable for the mainstream, which detracts from its punk credentials. At times a more raw edge would be most welcome. Even so, the album provides a great guilty pleasure summer soundtrack, and one you will definitely head back to when your more judgemental friends aren’t around.
4 out of 5