In the wake of their epic shutting-up of Scott Heisel, Four Year Strong became the pseudo torch-bearers for a hefty wave of amped up pop-punk bands that were down to sprinkle a little hardcore around (some part of me remembers this being called easycore, but I refuse to use that term in earnest). Another full-length, a covers album, and a wildly larger audience later one might expect them to change the pace or, you know, get bored. However, longtime fans are free to get stoked, because if “Tread Lightly” is any indication of what’s to come then FYS are still bringing the rock, dude.
It’s almost impressive the way that “Tread Lightly” is as much like Four Year Strong as Four Year Strong have ever sounded. As if they listened through their previous albums and scribbled out sticky notes with every stylistic move they’ve ever pulled, then refused to leave the studio until each one was crumpled by the trash can. Over the course of 3.5 minutes they charge through a punchy intro, a massive chorus and some frantic bridges, downshifting slightly for some half time thundering and an noodley little buildup at the end. On the vocal side they whip out the gruff, the melodic, the harmonized overlays and the gang vocals without so much as a blink and a sip of PBR. If I sound skeptical of this whirlwind “tricks of the trade” style, rest assured that I’m on board with this track. There’s a reason that they sound so comfortable unpacking all their outfits at once — that being that they’re skilled enough at each one to mash them all together and make it sound natural.
Aesthetically I can’t help but liken “Tread Lightly” to the band’s hometown of Worcester, Mass. If you come into it expecting a wildly surprising and revitalizing impression of what you thought you knew, you’re setting yourself up to be disappointed. Take it for what it is, and enjoy the charms that have always made it work. “Tread Lightly” isn’t the best or most exciting song Four Year Strong have put to tape, but it’s far from a bummer to listen to. Crack a brew (or soda), put on your favorite cut-off tank and enjoy the energy these guys can still bring.