Four Year Strong - Explains It All
Record Label: I Surrender Records/Decaydance Records
Release Date: June 21, 2009
Oh, the 90's. The decade gave us everything from pogs and Furbys to Bill Clinton's sex scandal and Pee-Wee Herman masturbating. On the musical front, we saw the rise and fall of grunge; MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice bring cheesy hip hop the masses, perhaps priming them for gansta rap; and teen pop sensations make thousands of screaming girls cry. Massachusetts-based quintet Four Year Strong have decided to pay tribute to the music with which they grew up by releasing a covers album of tunes from the beloved decade, cleverly titled Explains It All.
Although Nirvana's "In Bloom" is the only song from the first half of the 90's to be included, the song selection is fairly impressive. The band easily could have gone the sickening route of ironically covering songs like Will Smith's "Gettin' Jiggy wit It," Britney Spears' "...Baby One More Time" or the popular dance hit "Macarena," but they instead chose pop/rock hits of the time. With the exception of "She Really Loved You," a song by underrated melodic hardcore band Reach the Sky (which, despite not fitting in with the rest, is good to show the band's roots), the tracklisting reads like a list of most popular rock radio songs of the 1990's (although Nine Days' "Absolutely (Story of a Girl)" wasn't released until 2000). The band puts their signature pop punk sound into each of the hits. For me, this is what makes a good cover song: to preserve the integrity of the original while putting a new spin on an old favorite. The band just does that on the eleven covers, using their upbeat tempos, powerful dual vocals, and even a few breakdowns to make the songs their own yet not far removed from the initial tune.
The band manages to take already-catchy songs like Third Eye Blind's "Semi-Charmed Life" and make them even more infectious. They turn the repetitive chorus of The Smashing Pumpkins' "Bullet with Butterfly Wings" into an addicting hook. The song features a nearly unrecognizable cameo from a crooning Keith Buckley of Every Time I Die. Speaking of guest appearances, Gym Class Heroes' Travis McCoy confesses how he wishes he had a cool Jamaican accent on Sugar Ray's "Fly." JR Wasilewski and Buddy Schaub of Less Than Jake provide horns on No Doubt's "Spiderwebs," a song which ends with an abrupt breakdown. As vocalists Dan O'Connor and Alan Day see who can hold a high-pitched note longer in Del Amitri's "Roll to Me," it's evident that the band loved every second of this album, from choosing the songs, to the recording process, to the final product. And why shouldn't they? It's quite an enjoyable release, especially for the summer.
I can explain it all in one word: fun. Sure, at the end of the day it's just another throw-away covers album (albeit miles better than a typical Punk Goes... covers compilation), but the band clearly had as much fun making it as its fans will have listening to it. Although most would have preferred new material, I can't think of a better way to tide over the wait. So put down those Legos, shut that Goosebumps book, turn off your Tamagotchi digital pet, grab a boom box and pump up the volume for this great nostalgia album.