While the idea of finding a band that appeals to pissed off hardcore fans just as much as it does to screaming teenage girls sounds highly unlikely, it certainly isn't impossible. Worcester, MA's Four Year Strong capture this dynamic with skill, incorporating layered guitar harmonies, ridiculously catchy choruses (and verses alike, for that matter), rowdy, gang-chant filled breakdowns, cheesy synth hooks, impressively precise double bass, and even guest vocals from Mat Bruso, formerly of Bury Your Dead. Although all of these facets together seem like they would make an awkward combination, the band pulls it off surprisingly well. What sounds on paper like a band that is trying way too hard to please everyone is actually one that puts forth one of the more promising debuts to come out recently.
The album opens with a brief introductory track called "The Take Over", a title that seems appropriate for a band that, with the right exposure, could absolutely dominate the radio waves. This accessibility is a bit of a two-edged sword, however. To their credit, nearly every song on this record is undeniably catchy and immediately likeable - the group has a talent for penning infectious melodies that surpasses even that of the radio "pop-punk" hitmakers we see so often today. But despite the album's remarkably catchy nature, much of it comes off as sort of derivative (as in, "Hey, this sounds just like _____ mixed with _____!"). The dueling vocalists will remind you of Set Your Goals, the riffs will remind you of Fall Out Boy, the synthesizer will remind you of (early) Motion City Soundtrack, the breakdowns will remind you of about ten different hardcore acts at once, and so on. In fact, one of the few refreshing, unique moments appears about halfway through the song "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Hell", during which a dramatic pause is followed by a swung, chugging breakdown that brings an unexpected, southern rock-esque feel that lasts for eight bars before immediately transitioning back into the straightforward, hardcore-laced pop that the band is known for. Another deviation from the standard midtempo jams is the closing track, "Maniac (R.O.D.)". This fast paced, d-beat laced song brings things to a very satisfying close, ending with a fading chant of "Rise! Or! Die! Here at the top of the world!" Such an exciting track is a perfect way to conclude the album.
All in all, this is a very fun record that is good for singing along with friends to, if nothing else. If you're searching for something innovative and out there, this is not the album to look to. However, Four Year Strong have managed to capture a sound that embodies a number of styles and blends them together almost seamlessly. I have nothing but high hopes for this band, and I see endless potential in their debut and predict much recognition to come.
Overall Score: 8/10
Standout Tracks: Abandon Ship or Abandon All Hope; Heroes Get Remembered, Legends Never Die; Beatdown in the Key of Happy; Maniac (R.O.D.)
RIYL: Set Your Goals, Fall Out Boy, Life In Your Way, New Found Glory