Label: I Surrender/Decaydance Release date: 21/07/2009 Website: Official Website
You know those Fearless Records compilations, the ‘Punk Goes...’ ones? Well, basically, with ‘Explains It All’, Four Year Strong have made their very own ‘Punk Goes 90s’/‘Punk Goes Pop’ and, with a lack of bad faux-screamo and metalcore, it promises to be so much better than just about every Fearless disc. The Punk Rock Cover Song, despite what Fearless will make you believe, is a long standing, and mostly brilliant tradition. From The Dickies doing the Banana Splits theme to Goldfinger doing ’99 Red Balloons’ and pretty much most things that Me First and the Gimme Gimmes have recorded, there’s a lot of fun to be had from injecting a classic pop song with some punk rock energy. Now, Four Year Strong, with 2007’s ‘Rise Or Die Trying’, cemented themselves as one of those Marmite Bands, with some people loving their shamelessly fun mix of pop punk and hardcore that plundered every cliché of each genre in to oblivion and others writing them off as trash. I’m somewhere in the middle – I think they’re perfectly trashy fun, so they should pull off a covers album perfectly, right? Wrong. Whilst a decent listen, ‘Explains It All’ falls so short of what it could be. Whilst the band do indeed succeed in converting eleven hits of the 90’s from bands such as Nirvana, Third Eye Blind, Alanis Morisette and Sugar Ray, they kind of miss the point a bit. They make the mistake of performing covers that are too close to the original, instead of filling them with the energetic clichés of their own work. See, I was expecting gang vocals, blast beats and breakdowns at every turn, but instead found renditions of ‘Bullet With Butterfly Wings’ (Smashing Pumpkins) and ‘In Bloom’ (Nirvana’) that had little to make them stand apart from the original – if, for example, they had decided to make the tiny change of using their typical cleaner guitar sound rather than the distortion of the originals, these songs would have been much better; as they stand, they are a little pointless. The dynamics of songs are also too rigidly stuck too: ‘Ironic’ (Alanis Morisette) is crying out to be played entirely at a blistering pace, and with way more vocal contributors. Other songs are slightly livelier, but are still nowhere near as fun and energetic as the songs from ‘Rise. ..’ Fortunately, there is the occasional highlight in the form of ‘Semi-Charmed Life’ (Sugar Ray) and ‘Roll To Me’ (Del Amitiri) which greatly benefit from chugging riffs, pop punk ‘whoah-ohs’ and even higher pitched vocals than the originals. Superfans of Four Year Strong, aficionados of 90’s nostalgia or appreciators of a half-decent cover song will have something to interest them, but for the rest of us, there are better punk cover albums, better Four Year Strong albums and better ways to spend your time or money. In the interest of fairness, though, I’m including a tracklist, in case anyone reading has a particular favourite song covered on the album and wants to try it out for themselves. Everclear – So Much For The Afterglow Nine Days – Absolutely (Story Of A Girl) Alanis Morisette – Ironic Smashing Pumpkins – Bullet With Butterfly Wings Third Eye Blind – Semi-Charmed Kind Of Life No Doubt – Spiderwebs Del Amitri – Roll To Me Sugar Ray – Fly Nirvana – In Bloom Reach The Sky – She Really Loved You Tal Bachman – She’s So High Rating: 5/10