Review || Four Year Strong - "Brain Pain"

Friday, February the 28th of 2020 saw the release of Four Year Strong’s new full length album titled “Brain Pain” on Pure Noise Records. Theoretically FYS are labelled as a new wave pop punk band. I have fallen for that particular sound in the past few years and have discovered brilliant music. Pure Noise Records is the home for some of my favourite artists in that genre and, since 2014, the record label behind all Four Year Strong major releases. However, this band has always eluded my playlist, mainly because I was of the preconceived notion that their pop punk-ness is distinguished by a huge amount of incorporated heavy music, from metal-core to heavy rock to plain metal. I don’t like that type of heavy music. A few songs here and there gave me a generic musical impression of their approach, sided with non-stop group sing a longs which, frankly, didn’t do a lot for me. Still, given that FYS are so close to what I usually like immensely and given their pretty huge following and long steady history at the top of things means I’m doing something wrong, so when the opportunity arose for a review of their new album "Brain Pain", I eagerly stepped up.       

I listened to the whole record a bunch of times and felt the need to reach out to a friend, who is a fan of the band and understands music like almost no one I know, for some FYS history. Ch, if you’re reading this, thank you as always. He said that the band emerged to the heavily induced metal-core scene of 2006 with a record that blew everyone’s mind, sounding fresh, immaculate and as tight as a pair of pants you haven’t worn in a decade. They slowly built an impressive audience bringing one great record after another to the forefront of a genre that was fading away, always trying small new things each time and delivering pop hooks with the disguise of a heavy - but happy (as in major not minor) - basis of things. 2010’s "Enemy Of The World" propelled them to worldwide stardom and merely a year later (!!) "In Some Way, Shape or Form" dropped, having a severe punk rock aesthetic which drove some fans away. The self-titled album of 2015 brought things back to a heavier perspective, only to polarize people again in 2017 with the release of "Some Of You May Like This, Some Of You Won’t", a selection of re-workings and re-recordings of several of their most popular songs as well as several rarities. To put it in very harsh terms, think of a metal band releasing an acoustic record… 
It was time for original material and, in many ways, original it is. From a production stand point "Brain Pain" is the heaviest record Four Year Strong have made; it sounds like a cross between Baroness, Mastodon or the likes of Red Fang, and even the opening "It’s Cool" and full circle closing "Young At Heart" could easily be mistaken as songs by any of these bands. This may be completely new territory for the band, yet - just like death and taxes - nothing is more certain than Four Year Strong delivering heavy riffs and pop punk choruses. Even with a new sounding approach and the most metal parts they’ve played in years, "Get Out Of My Head", "Crazy Pills", "Talking Myself in Circles" and "Learn To Live The Lie" are straight up groovy pop punk anthems and my favourite part of "Brain Pain", along with "Seventeen" and the acoustic ballad of the record, "Be Good When I’m Gone". Both singers - a plus for any band to have - crush their respective roles as front and back up vocalists and, arguably so, the lyrical content is indeed at times a bit less generic than usual, which, to be honest, I have decided I don’t even mind with FYS; if the music and the melodies are this catchy, who cares (pun intended) how much lyrics resonate?         

Personally, I wouldn’t acknowledge "Brain Pain" as Four Year Strong’s most favourable work, because - for my taste as a punk rocker at heart - while having more than enough excellent moments I will be coming back to, the record as a whole is just too heavy. If heavy, groovy and catchy is a combination you’re looking for, look no further, dear reader.    

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