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7 out of 10
I'm going to be honest, I admire what Four Year Strong have done with their latest release, Explains It All.
Many times a band waits too long to release their follow up album, or releases too early, blows their load and annoys all their fans with an album that has a couple of good tracks and too much filler. Then the fans turn around and tell them that they wished they could have lasted longer and the band says how that has never happened to them before. But despite all the protests the fans have gone forever, on to the next band who work a bit longer on their art. So like the metaphorical teenage kid, Four Year Strong have honed their technique before their new album comes out with a 90s cover album, simultaneously keeping fans happy and expectations high - the musical equivalent of foreplay. And like a coddled lover I am basking in the warm glow that only spooning a selection of the "best" tracks of the 90s can give you.
Explains It All has a pretty solid track listing, from the instantly recognisable (Ironic and In Bloom), to the 'Oh I recognise that, I used to love that song' (Semi-Charmed Life and Absolutely (Story Of A Girl)). I personally was delighted to hear the album kick off with the Everclear cover, So Much For The Afterglow and that it contained the Del Amitri classic, Roll To Me.
There is an inherent danger that covers albums contain, and that is that if a person doesn't like, or know, the song being covered chances are they might not like the song regardless. So while I think Fly and She's So High are competently done covers, I have less inclination to repeatedly listen to them than I do for some of the other tracks. But then a covers album isn't supposed to constantly hold your attention, as FYS fully realise, this is just tiding people over before the full length.
FYS have definitely succeeded in putting their own personal stamp on all the tracks while never veering too far from the original recordings. The album starts off incredibly strongly and really the first 7 tracks are easily the best on the album, but again this is personal preference, and someone else will arguably prefer the latter tracks. However, being as objective as possible, the best tracks in regards to the way the covers have been done and in terms of FYS putting their own stamp on the songs, are Roll To Me and Semi-Charmed Life. It is clear that recording all these songs was an incredibly enjoyable exercise, and this sense of fun is reflected in all the tracks recorded.
This album will probably not win FYS too many new fans, but it may make more people tempted to buy their new full-length coming later in the year, and in this regards the album is successful. I have been listening to some of the tracks repeatedly since I got this album and while the lasting value may not be massive, any music from FYS is better than no music at all. I think that they have been very shrewd in releasing this album and that they have obviously worked hard to make this sound as professional and fun as possible. This is no half-assed album, it rocks as hard as Rise or Die Trying and only serves to get me more excited about the music FYS can make.
1. So Much For The Afterglow
2. Absolutely (Story Of A Girl)
4. Bullet With Butterfly Wings
5. Semi-Charmed Life
7. Roll To Me
9. In Bloom
10. She Really Loved You
11. She's So High