Pop-punk is usually viewed by the music-listening public as a cookie cutter genre. Write a catchy guitar hook, throw in some high-pitched, sing-along vocals – sell a bunch of albums, rinse, repeat, etc. Though there’s always a band or two that comes around every once in a while that shake things up a bit, no one seems to want to really mess around too much with the tried and true formula.
For the better part of their career, The Story So Far were a prime example of this exact kind of “if it ain’t broke…” pop-punk ethos. However, after cautiously dipping a toe into the unfamiliar waters of stripped down, acoustic songwriting on their 2013 split with Stick To Your Guns, it appears that they’ve become comfortable enough to dive in headfirst with an entire EP in this style, entitled Songs Of. Even though it probably comes off as a huge risk to the average TSSF fan, as it turns out, they’re just as good – if not better – at writing in this format as opposed to the typical fast-paced, hook-heavy songs that their audience is used to.
That being said, while Songs Of isn’t disappointing by any means, it doesn’t exactly blow the audience away, either. While it tends to jump back and forth a bit, with flashes of brilliance later being offset by poor songwriting and lyrical choices, it eventually comes to rest within the same sort of mediocre limbo where their other work resides – it’s pretty good, but we’ve heard it all before. The EP may be exceptional for a generic pop-punk band trying to play this type of music, but in the grand scheme of things there are a great deal of albums that easily trump it.
Personally, however, I like to look at Songs Of in a vacuum. After all, I wasn’t expecting Parker Cannon and Co. to come up with anything game-changing. In fact, when it’s examined completely out of context, it comes across as a simple collection of four (“All Wrong” doesn’t count) sad, slightly catchy pop songs. And, sometimes, that’s exactly what you need. With Cannon’s voice providing a bit of an edge reminiscent of harder TSSF material, the EP provides a unique enough experience to stand out slightly amongst its peers, while also sounding safe and comfortable enough to provide a nice sonic backdrop to, say, enjoying a nice cup of tea, or crying your eyes out after getting stood up on a date. The versatility of these songs is possibly the best thing they have to offer.
All praise and/or criticism aside, at the end of the day, this is still an album by The Story So Far, which, as we all know, means that it’s going to be eaten right up by stage-divin’-pizza-lovin’ pop-punk kids and screaming Hot Topic fangirls alike. However, when that’s all taken out of the picture, Songs Of is a pretty solid release that manages to stand on its own despite the obvious characteristics that separates it from the band’s other work. The genre of pop-punk has become one of often-recycled ideas, and you have to admire them at least a little bit for doing something different.