Looking at the titles in Stepbrothers' discography—including the group's latest album, There is Always Something to Worry About (Flesh and Bone Records, 2017)—it's tempting to infer some kind of thematic progression.
The local melodic hardcore band followed its debut EP Everything Might Turn Out Fine (self-released, 2012) with the albums Rapid Change//Breeds Growth (self-released, 2013) and Good Sons (self-released, 2014). There's a tentative optimism in these titles, which seems to get squashed by the group's most recent releases, Why the Fuck Would Anything Nice Ever Happen? (WavePOP Records, 2015) and TIASTWA.
But even if Stepbrothers had such pretensions, the band would probably never cop to them. In any case, it feels a bit silly to use phrases like "thematic progression" when reviewing songs named "My Safe Word Is Kazaam" and "Nu-Metal, Who Dis?" Of course, that's part of the group's m.o.—as drummer Charlie Ritch told BW in 2015, he and his bandmates use goofy titles like these precisely to avoid such pomposity (not to mention make reviewers feel silly).
Still, a critic's gotta do what a critic's gotta do. So, at the risk of sounding ridiculous, we'll point out that TIASTWA represents a culmination of Stepbrothers' five years as a band, combining familiar themes of disaffection and anomie with some of the group's most accessible music ever. It's a fitting swan song for this group, which announced back in September that it would disband after opening for The Menzingers on Oct. 9 (see the Listen Here for details).
Despite the band's high energy and playfulness, Stepbrothers' songs have had pain and doubt at their core from the beginning. Guitarist Pat Buckley and company have raged against soul-crushing routines and alienation since "2 Weeks Paid Leave" and "Grasping at Straws" from Everything.
On TIASTWA, the band finds new ways to cover old territory. The album's songs have slower tempos and the catchiest melodies of any Stepbrothers release. The lyrics don't have as many of the vivid details that made WTFWANEH stand out, but the band still comes up with great lines like this couplet from "Get Tricked and Die for Nothing": "I've got an atlas I marked up with wishful thinking / Thrown aside to escape into blissful drinking."
"I've done my best within my life to sing these songs / Instead of bending over for the bastards," Buckley sings on TIASTWA's closing track, "This is Where The Trail Ends, Friendo." If this really is Stepbrothers' last release, that's the perfect note to end on.