Controversial, Enigmatic, divisive-these are just a few adjectives that have been thrown at the Story so Far during the course of their three-album career. One thing that the band cannot be accused of, however, is being boring. It is clear that this has continued with Proper Dose.
Following a relatively long hiatus of three years from their previous release, Proper Dose sees the band stripping back the expansive post-hardcore of their self-titled record, and returning to a tested pop-punk sound. Having said that, bigger is not always better, and this just might be the best Story so Far record to date.
In a year that’s seen bands such as The Wonder Years and As it Is expand and diversify their sound; and Real Friends and Tiny Moving Parts embrace heavy producing and effects; Proper Dose is incredibly refreshing. The heavy gloom (sorry!) of the previous record is still here in the down-beat lyrics of tracks, such as ‘Proper Dose’ and ‘Keep this Up’. However, they are backed by just the essentials of two guitars, drums and bass. This allows the tracks to hit home with a staying power, which may be lacking in releases by some of their contemporaries. Sometimes immediacy can be a criticism; in this case, you’d have to say it’s one of the album’s major selling points.
That’s not to say that this album is a one-trick pony. The acoustic-tinged ‘Take Me as You Please’ ‘Let It Go’ and ‘Upside’ down, while still stripped down, show the bands softer side. Reminiscent of Run For Cover Records artists, such as Turnover, Citizen and Basement, it’s clear that the band have taken influence from contemporary indie-emo acts, as well as their more expected pop-punk idols.
The contrasting styles of the bombastic pop-punk, and the dialed-back indie-rock, showcase the album’s lyrical themes perfectly. The Story So Far’s fan base will be long accustomed to Parker Canon’s musings on heartbreak, drug use, family and hometowns; and ‘Proper Dose’ does little to deviate from this tired and tested winning formula. However, Whereas ‘Under Soil and Dirt’, ‘What You Don’t See’ and ‘The Story So Far’ addressed these topics from a naive standpoint, ‘Proper Dose’ has a palpable atmosphere of nostalgia. Canon has let most of the rage subside, and in its place is an acceptance tinged with regret. What we’re left with is a band that’s matured lyrically, without abandoning their signature sound; something that few, if any bands in the contemporary pop-punk scene manage.
Long-time listeners of the band will unquestionably love this record-as it feels like the next logical step in their narrative as a band. However, where this album really surprises is in it’s broader appeal. This record could easily find its way into the rotation of indie aficionados, emo devotees, and hardcore purists. This pop-punk band have definitely grown up, but they certainly haven’t sold out.