I haven’t listened consistently to radio-friendly pop-punk in nearly fifteen years. It feels crazy to say that, given how essential the music was to 15 year old me. The subgenre’s moment in the sun (with all its The Offspring/Green Day/Fall Out Boy-infused glory) has long passed, leaving the hollow shell of an intentionally immature, endlessly energetic musical movement behind. Much like my teen years, pop-punk seems a distant memory (and one for the most part best forgotten). But then The Story So Far releases another album that makes me revisit the music of my past and I love and hate them for it. Proper Dose, the band’s fourth full-length record, is another fantastic entry in the band’s already excellent discography.
While the bands mentioned above most certainly made their mark on the pop-punk world, they’re here applied mainly for name recognition. The Story So Far helm closer to the punk of The Wonder Years than any of the above, while incorporating the emotional and sonic post-oriented earnestness of bands like Touché Amoré. It’s the sound of your favorite pop-punk grown up, reckoning with a world that doesn’t resemble the mall parking lots of their youth in any way, shape, or form. While vocalist Parker has focused on the bitterness and bile associated with past romantic failures almost exclusively in previous releases, Proper Dose’s lyrical content reveals a greatly expanded palette of topics that reflect the growing levels of confusion, conviction, and despair/hope presented by adulthood, with the music itself serving as an equally potent maturation point. If you were looking for more songs about your ex-girlfriend, you’ll find fewer of them here than on any record in the band’s career.
The album’s opening and title track is a near-perfect example of The Story So Far’s marriage of youthful energy with a more complex, mature sound that is immediately engaging. The album is chock full of highs. “Keep This Up” brings a bracingly honest commentary on the pains of growing family distance, while “Take Me As You Please” unfurls itself in lush acoustics that add a dynamic counterpoint to the mostly high energy tracks that came before. This fluctuation between relentless and reflective peppers the record, allowing for plenty of audio and emotional breathing room. Front to back, Proper Dose is stuffed with catchy, resonant tracks that are as good as anything released in this subgenre in years.
The Story So Far represent a unique truce between the sounds of our youth and the perspective that adulthood in 2018 brings, and Proper Dose may be their most riveting effort yet. Musically diverse, emotionally complex, and thoroughly engaging aren’t titles I would hand out to most music in this space on a personal level, but there’s very little that The Story So Far don’t nail here. If you remember pop-infused punk music with fondness, you won’t go wrong with Proper Dose. If you revile everything this music stands for, it may be time to take another peek under the hood. The Story So Far’s creative engine is in pristine condition, and well worth taking for a spin. You can purchase this beaut on Bandcamp, or stream it most everywhere.
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