ARTIST: THE STORY SO FAR
TITLE: PROPER DOSE
LABEL: PURE NOISE RECORDS
For fans of California outfit The Story So Far, this release has been a long time coming, with their self-titled third album, which came out in 2015, being the last taste of new music we had from the band. As is to be expected, a lot can happen across three years, and certain things in life may change. That takes us nicely into the band’s new album Proper Dose, a record that provides a perfect example of the five-piece’s eclectic, bouncy prime pop-punk, while also honing in some broader, more neutral influences.
Right from the pre-released singles, there seemed to be an emphasis on the softer side of things, with guitars sounding much cleaner and crisp, frontman Parker Cannon sounding less enraged, and the overall instrumentation feeling far more tamed. The tone on songs like Let It Go, Upside Down and particularly the beautifully laid-back, Autumnal Take Me As You Please are far more composed than any other singles the band had ever put out before. And that’s really what Proper Dose does well. It’s, as a whole, calmer, more reflective and, you guessed it, mature.
Maturity is a massive part of the whole album. Parker Cannon is incredibly open in his cathartic depiction of his battles with drugs and its impact on his life and the lives of those close to him. In a recent interview, he confessed that he shut himself off to the world for a prolonged period of time, staying inside taking copious amounts of drugs as a result of absolute burnout from the relentless life of being in the band. As such, the lyrical side of things are largely weighty, and capture the struggles of a man on the brink of collapse. There’s no sign of Parker screaming lungs out about an ex here – this time, he’s digging deep into his own troubles and dishing out tracks with real reflective impotence, meaning and passion – without the teenage angst of old.
“All the trials and tribulations that Parker and his band mates went through are here for all to see and explore…”
That’s not too say this album abandons pop-punk, not at all in fact. Tracks like the opening title track as well as Keep This Up, Need To Know, and the excellently reworked Out Of It showcase the pounding pop-punk that you come to expect from the Californian outfit, but there’s just a broader feel to it all. Backings of acoustic guitars, shimmying tambourines and multi-tracked vocals bring out an unusual, yet more than fitting indie vibe – a sound that may surprise some. The great thing about the band’s progression on this album is that it really feels like they’ve put the last three or so years since they last released any music into making their sound feel supremely natural and convincing. All the trials and tribulations that Parker and his band mates went through are here for all to see and explore, and it makes the record a really eye-opening, personal experience. It’s still a pop-punk record, and undeniably a Story So Far one at that, but just one that’s far more accomplished and varied than anything we’ve ever heard from them before.
“Proper Dose is the sound of a band, and front man, that have struggled, been tested, beaten and yet, are still able to come back to their best…”
Instrumentally, huge amounts of credit should (as ever) go to guitarists Kevin Geynor and Will Levy for their stellar melody and lick writing. Helped by the superb production from Sam Pura, the pair have nailed down some truly brilliantly catchy pieces that stick like glue in your brain. The lead riff in Out Of It as well as the grinding refrains in the midst of both Let It Go and If I Fall are the trademark hooky Story So Far instrumentation. Elsewhere, drummer Ryan Torf outdoes himself in blending his signature florid beats with the band’s poised new sound – no more so than on the semi-ambient, electronic-indie wonder that is Line. This track epitomises the calmer intent of Proper Dose down to a tee, with a sliding bass hook, tranquilly soft Turnover-esque drums and a tiny vocal section – it’s beautifully different, and a really special marker of where the band are and the sound they’ve achieved on this record.
Proper Dose is the sound of a band, and front man, that have struggled, been tested, beaten and yet, are still able to come back to their best. There’s pop-punk to keep the old guard happy, and an exploration of a diverse, broader sound to add something new to prevent it feel stale. It’s up there with the best of Story So Far albums, without question.