It’s cool that Four Year Strong are (finally) back. More than that, there just seems to be an effusively buoyant attitude surrounding this return for the genre-bending melodic hardcore band. While they started their career more firmly entrenched in a sort of rebirth of what pop punk could be, on Brain Pain, we see a group of musicians evolved over the course of nearly 20 years. Lyrically, the band still plumbs the same depths they always have with the benefit of more lived experience. This is Four Year Strong reclaiming their spot among pop punk’s modern heavyweights in a time when there are many bands using their influence to gain steam in their own careers.
In a lot of ways this feels like a “kitchen sink” type of album where the band largely leaves no stone unturned and no riffs on the cutting room floor. For all of the swift tempo changes and textural shifts, though, everything feels put together extremely well. That especially includes the sequencing of the record that exhibits a consistency rarely seen and even less often executed so expertly that you’ll likely wind up looping the final product before you realize that bangers like the title track and “Believe the Lie” have already played three times and you’ve clocked a few hours listening to it.
It’s very tempting to compare Brain Pain to some of the best offerings of A Day to Remember who have stood out for the better part of two decades as well with their own variety of crushing riffs and memorable melodies. However, making that comparison just feels too easy when diving into tracks like album opener, “It’s Cool”, and ear worm, “Talking Myself in Circles”. If anything, this album shows why this band continues to be relevant at nearly twenty years of existence.
In fact, the borderline contemplative “Young at Heart” closes out the album with some soaring loud-soft-loud dynamics normally reserved for the finer moments of current post-hardcore and post-metal. There are pieces of this kind of influence strewn about this album that proves that the band hasn’t stood still. One could even argue that the blistering opening track is direct proof of this. The fact that it feels like the record was methodically built, managed, and produced over such a long period between albums is another reward for listeners new and old alike.
One might have thought that this band would have a shorter shelf life especially given some of their more youthful, yet still entertaining, moments such as Explains It All or the prophetically titled curveball that was Some of You Will Like This, Some of You Won’t. Indeed, the saccharine sweet “Be Good When I’m Gone” harkens back to the latter’s acoustic version of the band. The latest offering from the band, though, is largely a revamp that harkens back to their highlights from the self-titled album, Rise or Die Trying, Enemy of the World, and In Some Way, Shape or Form.
It’s much more than just revisiting what made them a stalwart band. There’s a crisp production and enough punch in the low-end that it feels like each track has more heft to it than any in their previous catalog. It’s that update that makes Brain Pain such an enjoyable and repeatable listen. More than anything else, though, Four Year Strong are back doing what they do best: crafting memorable songs that will absolutely have you coming back for more. Welcome back, boys.
Brain Pain is out now on Pure Noise Records.