FOUR YEAR STRONG
COMEBACK OF THE YEAR: With five years gone by since we last heard from the band, easycore vets Four Year Strong had to go big or go home with their seventh full-length, Brain Pain, opting to go big by going back to the well with famed producer Will Putney, who last manned the mixing board for the band’s 2010 opus Enemy of the World, arguably their best record (though I’m rather partial to 2007’s Rise or Die Trying myself). And despite what they say, you actually can go home again because Four Year Strong has made aural magic on Brain Pain.
Brain Pain eschews the full-on pop punk moniker that Four Year Strong has largely become associated with over the course of their career, instead this time properly representing both sides of the genre. The album toes the line between sing-along ready, upbeat pop leaning anthems (“Get Out of My Head,” “Talking Myself in Circles,” “Learn to Love the Lie,” “Seventeen”) and guitar driven punk blasts (“Crazy Pills,” “Brain Pain,” “Mouth Full of Dirt,” “Usefully Useless”). The airy and acoustic “Be Good When I’m Gone” is a change of pace complete with soft vocals and fragile strings, but make sure to catch your breath while you can because Brain Pain cannonballs right back into the deep end of the happy hardcore pool on “The Worst Part About Me,” a blazer with tight riffs, soaring hooks, and layered harmonies (good luck getting these lines out of your head—“Go on and rip my fuckin’ heart out, fill my body up with disease, it doesn’t matter if I’m rotting from the inside out, you’re still the worst part about me”). Closer “Young at Heart” leaves you wanting more, while sending Brain Pain out on a high note with memorable licks and dissonant screams.
If you have forgotten just how good Four Year Strong is, pop Brain Pain on and let the boys remind you themselves. In terms of a comeback album, it’s hard to imagine how they could have done much better than this. To quote an old Four Year Strong cliché, it must not really suck to be Four Year Strong right now. ~ Brian Campbell