I absolutely adore the 1990s. I’m a shamelessly huge fan of the silliest kinds of Nineties music that existed. Apparently Four Year Strong is as well. The pop punk band recently released a covers album entitled, appropriately, Explains it All. Instead of rushing into the studio to record a follow-up to 2007's Rise or Die Trying, FYS decided to record a disc of their favorite 1990s songs. The album cover is even a picture of the band members as little kids collected from way back when in the 90s.
To me, no matter how “cheese sandwich” it may sound, 1990s music instantly makes me feel nostalgic for my middle school years (which were remarkably unremarkable, in reality, yet I like the nostalgic feeling anyway).
I don’t really have many complaints about the songs the band covered. The songs they covered are among the heavy hitters (and some obscure radio stars) of the decade: Everclear, Nine Days, Alanis Morissette, Smashing Pumpkins, Third Eye Blind, No Doubt, Del Amitri, Sugar Ray, Nirvana, Reach the Sky, and Tal Bachman.
Starting off the disc in spectacular fashion is FYS’s take on Everclear’s So Much for the Afterglow. FYS turns in an awesome version of the song, filled with the same sense of energy that Everclear exhibited on the original. The song rocks.
Nine of the other ten songs on the disc are great (more on that later). I’m not familiar with She Really Loved You, by a band called Reach the Sky. It makes sense, though, for FYS to pay homage to a punk band that undoubtedly helped shape them musically. The song is pretty good in its own right, I just didn’t know it beforehand.
As for the hits, FYS made great decisions on which songs to cover. Nine Days’ Absolutely (Story of a Girl) is pretty straightforward, but retains a bit of FYS’ own flavor.
Ironic is one of the album’s highlights, as the band takes on Alanis Morissette’s mega-smash while also poking a bit of fun at the song, laughing out loud at the lyric about “finding the man of your dreams and then meeting his beautiful wife”. Four Year Strong clearly had a ton of fun making this album, and it shows in moments like that.
Spiderwebs is also one of the album's key moments, and it even turns into a funny Pantera homage at the end...totally unexpected and completely badass.
The only real ‘bad’ things about Explains it All that I can think of regard Sugar Ray’s Fly and Third Eye Blind’s Semi-Charmed Life. Travis McCoy of Gym Class Heroes shows up to fill role that Supercat held in the original, but this time McCoy is nothing but irritating. Instead of attempting anything resembling the reggae dancehall contributions on the original track, he just says things like “man, I wish I had a Jamaican accent, I’d be sayin’ some real sexy shit right now” and basically being a dork. It kind of ruined the song for me. FYS sounds great on the song, but McCoy doesn't.
FYS’ take on Semi-Charmed Life is MOSTLY great, except for one nagging superfan complaint. I have an undying love for that song and Third Eye Blind. That song in particular is one of my all-time favorites, and instantly takes me back to the summer of 1997. FYS did a great job covering it, but they chose to record the damn radio edit version, omitting a GREAT bridge and vocal hook that was one of the song’s highlights. I really wish FYS would have recorded the album version of the song instead of the radio edit, but they chose to ignore my demands. Bastards.
Besides that glaring slight against my wishes, Explains it All is great. I love pop punk cover albums (such as New Found Glory’s From the Screen to the Stereo discs), and Explains it All is a mostly perfect selection of tunes. As a child of the 90s, there are of course some covers I wish would have been on this album, but it’s pretty solid as it is. I’m especially glad they covered Tal Bachman’s She’s so High and Del Amitri’s Roll to Me, as they are both vintage random 1990’s pop gems that I heard all the damn time growing up.
Explains it All is a great cover album by a fun band. Check it out if you like pop punk, the silly 1990s radio hits, nostalgia, middle school, and having fun. If you don’t like any of that stuff, than I (and probably FYS) don’t like you.