Free Throw have always seemed to be at the cusp of something brilliant. Releasing two very well received records into the emo-revival scene, and touring with veteran acts as varied as The Wonder Years, Knuckle Puck and Tiny Moving Parts, the band are perfectly poised to be one of the biggest bands in pop-punk and emo. They’ve released ‘What’s Past is Prologue’, in hope of reaching that potential, and putting the past behind them.
Cory Castro’s singing voice has always been tuneful; and was often the strong point on ‘Those Days Are Gone’ and ‘Bear Your Mind’. On these previous releases, however, his raspy shouting didn’t quite have the same quality. This is far from the case on ‘What’s Past is Prologue’, however, as his anguished yelps have improved immeasurably, and only adds to the sense of struggle when Castro is revisiting his past demons.
On ‘Bear Your Mind’, it was often easy to forget that Free Throw has three guitarists. There was a lot of proficient noodling, and the rhythm guitars played a solid, if not spectacular, supporting role. On ‘What’s Past is Prologue’, the rhythm guitars have ‘beefed up’ somewhat, and act as the perfect foil to the math-rock noodlings of Lawrence Warner.
There is a marked improvement in musicianship for both lead and rhythm guitars on ‘What’s Past is Prologue’. While the band has always been able to play better-than-average Midwestern emo, with twinkly guitars, and indie-rock aesthetic, it often led to very little variety between tracks. This is not the case here, as the band flit easily from the upbeat, straight up pop-punk of ‘You Don’t Say That’, the impressive math-rock of ‘Stay Out of the Basement’ and the tried-and-tested emo of ‘Today is Especially Delicious’. That the band can pull these three varied style together, and make such an impressive record, is a testament to their development as musicians.
Lyrically, the band has shown a lot of growth from ‘Those Days Are Gone’ and ‘Bear Your Mind’. While these records often focussed on partying and alcoholic excesses, brought on by fratish friendships and failed relationships, ‘What’s Past is Prologue’ is a much more introspective record for Cory Castro, which sees him confronting his demons, and working through his problems, rather than drinking and smoking them away.
There are still a few references to such vices, including Castro’s reference to smoking on ‘Smokes Let’s Go’, and drinking on ‘Today is Especially Delicious’. While As with any treatment, there are triumphs and relapses, but ultimately, there is an acceptance of how things are, if not a complete recovery.
While this album is definitely the band’s finest and most unique record to-date, ultimately, ‘What’s Past is Prologue’ probably isn’t Free Throw’s zenith. Where this record succeeds, however, is setting Free Throw up as one of the most important bands of the emo-revival movement. There’s clearly a lot more to come from this band in the not too distant future!