Review: The Story So Far Mature In Sound With 'Proper Dose'

The pop punk scene these days is hectic. Frankly, it is a jambalaya of different sounds and approaches to what the term even means. Bands like Neck Deep are going for a way more straightforward Blink-182 worship. Knuckle Puck and Movements take a more emo approach to it. There are artists like PUP, Joyce Manor, or Jeff Rosenstock who, despite leaning heavily towards the punk aspect, are still considered by many to be pop punk in their own regard. Then there’s the ultra pop punk bands like Waterparks, With Confidence, and less recently, 5 Seconds of Summer. All of these bands encapsulate a genre defined by punk music with pop hooks/sensibilities. So what does this have to do with The Story So Far? They’re pushing the genre into a brand new category. With Proper Dose, the band fuses some indie stylings into their previously angry, finger-pointing generic pop punk. The release of lead single “Out of It” was a shock to many. It was certainly a more hazy vibe than what the average fan was used to. As catchy as that song and second single “Let it Go” are, the fans’ reactions were astoundingly polarizing. So is the change any good? Did Parker and the gang make a wrong turn at Albuquerque? Or is Proper Dose actually worth the time?

The change in sound is so hard to explain. It is as if they took “Phantom” from their previous self-titled record and recorded more upbeat songs in that same vein. The songs have a more atmospheric energy to them, while mostly still retaining the seemingly upbeat nature of most TSSF songs. There are some slow moments, but they belong in the context of the album. The band were not shy of doing some more slow things in the past, with the aforementioned “Phantom” and their EP of acoustic songs. Songs like “Growing On You” and “Take Me as You Please” (the latter of which showcases Parker’s grand ability to sing in falsetto) show off the band’s undeniable versatility. They prove that they can definitely write a song that isn’t super energetic and catchy, but rather more relaxing.

What is great about this album is that it is so clear that this is The Story So Far doing exactly what they want to do with their music. Most of the time when we hear that a pop punk band changed their sound, we assume it means they pulled an All Time Low or a State Champs on us a went for a more pop route. The Story So Far demonstrate that that isn’t the only way to go. They retain their unique sound while also completely changing their attitude. Parker is no longer mad at some girl we never met for breaking his heart or whatever. He accepts that it’s no longer what he wants to write about, and he even addresses that on “Upside Down.” Many of the songs (“Keep This Up,” “Out Of It”) address Parker’s drug use and how people view him for that. The chorus of the aforementioned track even addresses how he pushed people away who were concerned about him. This self awareness is extremely inviting and relatable. It is a bold move for the band to change up their sound and lyrical content for something that is such a left hook, but it feels to true to who they are that there can be no fault found. Plus, the music is legitimately good and catchy, and the songwriting is spectacular. There isn’t anything frilly on this album; no bullshit, just straight up catchy songs with relatable and real lyrics.

Something that can bug one throughout Proper Dose is that Parker’s vocals seem to be pitch corrected/autotuned a little too heavily (see: chorus of “Need to Know”). Chalking it up to the vocal layering and effects would be great, but sometimes it seems like that is not the case. For the most part, though, Parker sounds great. Presumably they may have had to play with his vocals a bit, because he is used to a lot more yelling instead of mid-rage melody. There are also a couple of moments that are a bit forgettable. “Line” is a track that adds absolutely nothing to the album whatsoever, and there are a couple of other tracks that are very enjoyable in the moment, but they don’t stick with you as much as you’d want them to. The album also doesn’t have the best flow possible. It ends sort of abruptly with “Light Year,” and as cliche as it is, I think the album would benefit more from closing with a slower track like “Growing On You” or “Take Me as You Please.”

Sonic change—and even attitude change—is something that is typically hard to execute with favorable response. The Story So Far took their signature sound and just took the mask off. No longer are they a bitter band but more of a somber one. Parker calls attention to issues with himself and internal struggles rather than being angry at a girl. Their sound is now best described as more mature, both lyrically and sonically. Parker has found the strength to address his personal struggles in a deeper sense than just emotional. It is admirable. This is clearly a natural progression and the band at their most real. It is apparent that the band is passionate about their change of sound, and there is no intent of grabbing a more commercial audience. If anything, they embraced a more or equal style of underground music. Proper Dose is an album that feels like the most natural progression for The Story So Far, a band who for so long seemed like they were stuck on the same path. This is a refreshing take on the pop punk genre and a great example of a style change that doesn’t sacrifice good songwriting for capturing a more accessible audience.

Proper Dose is available now on Pure Noise Records.


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