California-based pop punk legends The Story So Far have just released their third studio album. The band dropped their self-titled LP via Pure Noise Records on May 19, but uploaded it for streaming a full week beforehand, after leaking singles and other teasers for the last few months (and after the whole album was leaked online). Most notably, the band leaked their single “Nerve” by handing out 50 demo copies at a Title Fight show in San Francisco, claiming it was from a fictional band called “The Skateboarders”. Is there a more punk way to release a single? I think not.
“Nerve” is great, like most of the album, and it’s exactly what you would expect from The Story So Far. They’ve got pop punk down to a fine art, and they do it well, but fans looking to see musical progression after Under Soil and Dirt and What You Don’t See might be a little bit disappointed.
The Story So Far opens with “Smile”, a song clearly dedicated to a lost love. It’s a familiar sound, and shows the band still very much wearing their hearts on their sleeves, especially in the chorus: “Are you blocking all the things / That have to do with me? / Is it easier now? / Do you feel any release? / Tell me how you fit in / And where do you begin? / Do you toast when they toast? / Do you sin when they sin?”.
The next track, “Heavy Gloom”, is one of my favourites from the album. This one leans heavily on bassist Kelen Capener and is one of the grittier tracks on the LP. It’s lyrically great too and though vocalist Parker Cannon makes heavy use of rhyme, he kills the chorus: “It cuts so much deeper / Why would I wanna see her? / Only had one beer / And I don’t wanna sleep here / And I know you don’t care / You’ve made it so clear / Swore I had no fear / Not until you came near”.
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“Solo” changes the tone a little bit, it’s a little more low-key but still suitably pop punk. This track introduces the lyrical theme of “feeling indigo”, which is repeated throughout the album in various places, an almost-subtle undercurrent that draws it all together pretty nicely. It’s definitely not one of my favourite tracks, but I hear that it grows on you, so I’m still waiting to be sold on this one.
“Mock” is another great track, the best part being Cannon’s vocals in “Make things worse / I always seem to make things worse / ‘cos I can’t seem to shake this curse / I can’t seem to put you first”. “Phantom” starts out with guitar feedback like “Smile”, and is the most somber track on the record. The lyrics aren’t too varied and at only two and a half minutes long, it definitely could have done more. I respect the attempt to change up the sound a little bit, but for me it didn’t work. This one is easily the most disappointing track on the record, but you might enjoy it if you liked their acoustic EP Songs Of.
Cannon is good at what he does, but he knows it and doesn’t stray too far from what he does best. His vocals are as crisp and clean as ever, but it would be cool to see him mix these up a bit, as it definitely brings a sense of sameness to the album—like you’ve heard all these tracks before.
Ultimately, The Story So Far is a great album, albeit a little bit disappointing. It definitely feels like it could have benefited from a little more risk, but as “Phantom” makes clear, risks don’t always pay off. If your favourite songs from Under Soil and Dirt are tracks like “Mt. Diablo” and “Daughters”, or “Right Here” and “All Wrong” from What You Don’t See, then you’ll probably dig the new album. If you’re a fan of their faster, more hardcore sound, then you’ll probably be disappointed by this latest release.