American punk-rock band The Story So Far has been a massive force in the pop-punk revival for nearly a decade since forming in California in 2007.
Since its debut, the lineup of Parker Cannon on vocals, Kelen Capener on bass, Kevin Geyer on lead guitar, Will Levy on rhythm guitar and Ryan Torf on drums has held strong.
The band gained a strong fan base for its hardcore, pop-punk style and lyrical content, infamously surrounding “the girl” whom Cannon frequently cites with his thunderous vocals.
The 2011 studio album “Under Soil and Dirt” was the angst-laced outburst and 2013’s “What You Don’t See” had the ferocious accusations, while the band’s self-titled album marked the messy burnout, accompanied by lyrical content consisting of all the shades of blue you can think of.
Now, The Story So Far’s “Proper Dose” represents the recovery for Cannon as he pours himself out in the band’s most honest album yet, still maintaining a high quality of pure energy and anthemic lyrics.
“Proper Dose” was recorded following one of the darkest moments of Cannon’s life. Speaking with Kerrang! Magazine for his first interview since 2013, Cannon chronicled the downward spiral following the band’s self-titled release in 2015. He said he didn’t feel a sense of community from his suburban hometown of Walnut Creek, California, unable to connect with his friends and family after burning out from six years of non-stop touring.
Cannon became reclusive, staying in a one-bedroom apartment and cutting himself off from as much of the world as he could while getting high on pills and cough syrup. The band was on the verge of disbanding. However, after an intervention, Cannon became re-animated with a new sense of direction personally and musically.
He began moving forward, letting go and focusing on something new. The result was “Proper Dose.”
The album kicks off with a detonation of hard power chords as Cannon details his absence in the title track, “Proper Dose.” He admits to lacking a sense of direction in life and drowning himself with hallucinogenic self-medication. It, however, moves toward more optimistic themes of wanting to better himself through an analogy of watching his cousin grow up. The song concludes with Cannon’s vocals sounding more alive than ever.
This leads to the weakest song on the album — the third track, “Out of It.” Oddly enough, poor writing is not the problem. The original version of “Out of It,” released in 2017, was an energetic, punk jam with the catchiest riff from the band since 2013’s “Empty Space.” Whatever made the band decide to soften the tone of the lead guitar and dirty up the production is beyond me. It should’ve just been left a non-album single.
“Take Me as You Please” is covered in Oasis influences, using warm synthesizers and striking guitar tones to create the poppiest punk you will ever hear from the band. Cannon cheekily rhymes “hazy” with “lazy” and “crazy” with “baby” as he hums about not caring what resentment his ex may hold towards him. It sounds like the adorkable love-child of Lana Del Rey and Noel Gallagher.
Leading into “Let it Go,” Torf shows off his heavy drumming chops as he carries the song in a fast-paced highway tune. The dynamic between Cannon and Geyer finds an awesome resurgence as the riffs sail along with Cannon’s voice.
Lyrically, it returns to more familiar themes of frustration about the breakup between Cannon and “the girl.” He pleads for her to stop tearing into him every time they see one another so they may preserve what few good memories they have left. He reflects on how she brought them to a position where their relationship is the only fragment of their friendship left.
The rest of the album transcends into a gorgeous realm of optimism. “Proper Dose” begins with Cannon clawing from his shackled daze and as listeners reach the second leg. The songs here are built on a focus on harmony with more melodic approaches and lyrics predicting a brighter future for the band, moving past anger.
“Need to Know” holds anthemic lyrics of wanting to get better and an emotional climax of Cannon calling to save himself.
In “Upside Down,” he proclaims that he no longer has the animosity he once held for “the girl” but recognizes she will forever be tied to the band’s music.
Even “Line” feels like a faint reflection of darker times, as the song grooves to a bright post-rock atmosphere of bongos and Geyer’s guitar shimmering on Cannon reiterating lyrics from “Let it Go.”
“Proper Dose” nears its conclusion with its most sympathetic song, “Growing on You.” It holds the pace of a slow walk, with gorgeous vocal harmonies in its chorus. The song is a self-reflection and shows how the band’s songwriting has matured.
Cannon breaks himself open and accepts he is not without his own problems and that he’s human just like “the girl.” Droplets of piano keys cross across the song to carry it to a bittersweet ending. It serves as a far more fitting ending to “Proper Dose” than the actual closer “Light Years,” which would have fared better earlier on in the album.
“Proper Dose” is the most adult The Story So Far has ever been. It branches out into more melodic territories while still throwing in the band’s trademark hardcore, punk sound. The band provides some of its most beautiful and honest work to date.