Pop punk icons The Story So Far (TSSF) are back with “Proper Dose,” an album that mixes the band’s emblematic, angry, finger-pointing, stage-kicking sound with a “proper dose” of introspective energy.
While the raw, three-albums-in-and-still-not-over-my- high-school-girlfriend sound of the old TSSF may be gone to the disappointment of some fans, the group’s newest effort shows positive growth for the band and its members’ personal lives.
The album’s first highlight is not the first song, aptly called “Proper Dose,” but rather “Keep This Up,” a two-and-a-half-minute reflection on addiction.
“Bet if you keep this up, you’ll die here all alone / Yet you still fill your cup / Nodding off, nodding off now,” frontman Parker Cannon yells in his classic and recognizable singing/yelling tone at the song’s conclusion. While such a tone is no different in this verse than in most other TSSF tracks, the listener can hear the verse’s particularly impassioned energy, making it powerful and memorable compared to other TSSF tracks.
The following song, “Out of It,” was first released as a single in 2017 without as much obvious autotune or production as the edition that was ultimately put on the album. This original version certainly has the “old” TSSF sound, but the added extra layering of the album version helps it fit into the new overall vibe the band clearly attempted to achieve in the album.
After the intensity of the first three tracks, the Northern California quintet takes an equally long rest with “Take Me as You Please,” “Let It Go,” and “Upside Down.” This portion of the album exemplifies the changes the band has made. Others agree, feeling that the changes in sound are for the better.
“Now, this is a band evolving in a great direction. Whole album ripsss,” YouTube commenter Los Chot gun said under the music video for “Upside Down.”
The next highlight, “Growing On You,” aims for a self-reflective calmness that stands out shockingly from any of the other songs on the album (or possibly anything from TSSF). “I am a blade in a lawn that’s new / Covered in dew, waiting on you,” Cannon sings in a higher-pitched, more melodic voice than is typical for him.
Have you ever noticed that the final song on an album always feels quite “final?” There’s a tone that is different from any of the prior songs on the album that gives a sense of “wrapping it all up.”
“I’m stepping outside now, I’ll leave you behind now / I finally came down, I’m ready to let it all out,” the chorus begins in “Light Year.” While not all of its lyrics are particularly uplifting, it seems that “Light Year” is meant to be a culmination of the growth TSSF exhibits throughout “Proper Dose” in different ways, ranging from acceptance of past wrongs and a more mature overall sound, to even the “Upside Down” music video, which was shot in a setting that viewers on YouTube noted looks similar to the setting of a music video for a song by TSSF called “Quicksand,” minus the angry Parker Cannon finger-pointing of the early 2010s.
The band has always been good, but there was a period of a few years during which I listened to very little of TSSF. “Proper Dose” has ended that streak, and I feel that, for a while, I won’t be able to listen to much other than The Story So Far because, in the words of Los Chotgun, the “whole album ripsss.”