The Story So Far - Under Soil and Dirt (Cover Artwork)

The Story So Far

Under Soil and Dirt (2011)

Pure Noise Records

Last summer I went to the Warped Tour in Mountain View California and got so see one of my favorite bands headlining the festival; five guys from Walnut Creek called The Story So Far. They’ve been headlining huge tours, they have hundreds of thousands of fans and they even have bands who take their names from their songs! They now have three full lengths and a handful of Ep’s under their belt, but I wanted to take the time to review my personal favorite TSSF record. In 2011, before they took off in the pop punk scene like a rocket, the band dropped their first full length entitled Under Soil and Dirt.

I played in bands in the norther California area starting in 2007, and remember playing shows with these guys and for all intents and purposes, they were just another local band doing small tours. Then they put out Under Soil and Dirt on Pure Noise Records in 2011 and everything changed.

I know I only speak for myself, but I also know some would agree with me, but Under Soil and Dirt is one of the best modern pop punk records ever made.

The record kicks off with the intro song “States and Minds” and the first full song, titled “Roam.” Honestly, if you were to imagine the perfect way to introduce your listeners to your album, this would be what it would sound like. Transitioning from the anthemic drive of “States and Minds” to the bouncy rhythms and catchy hooks of “Roam,” is one of the most perfect record intros I have ever heard. They’re instantly recognizable and will get stuck in your head for years to come.

The lead single, complete with a music video, “Quicksand” is my favorite song on the record. Not by a long-shot, as most songs are fantastic, but it has a melodic energy that combines pop punk and melodic hardcore in a wonderful way. Not to mention the most sing-a-long outro in existence. Go ahead, I dare you to not sing along with “I’m trying hard, real hard, every day not to lose my temper.” I double-dog dare you.

“Swords and Pens” follows, keeping up the high octane, fast-pace pop punk sound and transitions into a bouncy sing-along chorus. “High Regard,” starts out with a “States and Minds” vibe and dissolves into a perfect mid-tempo Pop Punk anthem with some of the catchiest lyrics on the record. I gotta say, it would sure suck to be the girl that this record is referring to. Most songs have a anger and angst over a broken relationship, and although it can get a little repetitive, there’s a part of it that we all can identify with.

Speaking of girls that have done you dirty, “Daughters” follows as track six. To be honest, it’s a weird little song. I love it, but it’s a bit unconventional in terms of the song structure we’ve been listening to so far. It doesn’t have a chorus, just a steam-of-consciousness style verse and a long musical outro. It’s a nice structural change of pace, and is one of my favorites on the record.

I remember the tom-laden song “Mt. Diablo,” from their previous split with the band Maker, and I have to say, I’m glad they included this song on the record. Not to say that the split version of the song was bad, but the re-recording took a good song and made it great. It’s one of their most interesting songs in terms of arrangement and song structure. No two parts sounds the same, save the chorus, which gives it a very unique sound when in comparison to the rest. And “do you look yourself straight in the eyes and think about who you let between your thighs?” has to be one of the most memorable lines off the entire full-length.

Well, here we are at the eighth song, and we finally have one not about a girl. “Four Years,” deals with the inner turmoil with moving away and pursuing various things like college and career, but asking the hard questions of whether or not it’s actually worth it. “Rally Cap,” is probably the most average song on the record for me - which isn’t a bad thing. It’s a good song, and if this is the worst song, in comparison to the others, it should tell you just how amazing this record is. Side note: I legitimately said the line “talk quenches thirst but does nothing for hunger” to a girl once during a heavy conversation. We don’t talk anymore.

Ah, “Placeholder.” The acoustic song with full band backing. This is a absolutely perfect song to close out the record. (I think this song would’ve been better to have as the last song, instead of second to last, but whatever) The melody is beautiful, the lyrics are tight and it’s a good contrast to the previous nine songs. “Closure,” which is the last song contains my favorite line from the entire record: “I invest my ideas but get swallowed in debit and the only release is to yell and to sweat until my clothes are soaking wet,” which perfectly sums up the spirit of the hardcore/punk scene. The spirit of a bunch of people living the highs, lows and in-betweens of life getting together at a show to release their passion, anger, joy and heartache. Music, my friend, is a beautiful thing.

One of the most interesting things about the record, and why I think it turned out so well, was in all actuality two things: they wrote it apart from each other in bits and pieces, and they didn’t have the massive exposure they have now.

The unfortunate aspect of a colossal fan base it the element of expectation. And although their next two full lengths are good in their own ways, they just lack the magic that Under Soil and Dirt has. Five regular dudes in a punk band with a small following and something to prove recording their first full length just works sometimes.

It’s been seven long years since The Story So Far blessed us with From Under Soil and Dirt - and we are eternally grateful they did. Standing up against the test of time very well, this pop punk gem still finds its way into my record rotation to this day.