In these dark, gloomy times there’s nothing like a bit of upbeat, happy pop-punk to lift you up. Which is why it’s a bit of a drag that former party rockers like You Me at Six, Blink-182 and Four Year Strong have chosen 2011 to start getting serious and release darker, more ‘mature’ albums. It’s particularly unwelcome in the case of Four Year Strong since it was the devil-may-care exuberance mixed with hardcore heaviness that fuelled their best work. Tales of having fun and chilling with your mates have now been replaced by intense declarations of endurance and angry tirades against ex-girlfriends.
Which would be alright, but in the process they’ve lost losing the mosh-pit stoking heaviness of their earlier work and started using more conventional radio-rock songwriting, which ends up rendering them around the Foo Fighters level on the rocking scale. There’s nothing wrong with the Foo Fighters of course, but the interplay of heavy breakdowns and infectious melodies was the key ingredient to many of their best moments, and it’s sorely missed. There’s a lot of good songwriting, sometimes great, but maturity seems to have come at the expense of what made them special in the first place. They haven’t totally lost their knack for anthemic shout-alongs such as ‘The Infected’ and ‘Just Drive’, but even these feel a bit weighed down by the somewhat downbeat vibe which doesn’t work well with a band like this. There’s even a bit of piano balladry on the last track, but that’s just crammed onto another heavy rocker that makes these stabs at re-imaging their sound seem a bit superficial.
In the end, while their intentions were probably pure, this record comes across as an overly self-conscious attempt to evolve their sound, which ironically ends up making them sound like everyone else.