The American pop punk scene is one of the largest musical trends to stay current that has existed in the last few decades. From the early 00’s college anthems, to the more complexly constructed ‘easycore’ hits that have hit radios in the last 5 years; it’s all still music that is made for fun, not for invention. State Champs come under the latter category releasing songs aimed around the present teenage audience with highly applicable lyrics accompanied by harmonious guitar riffs, simplistic bass lines and highly energetic drumming. It’s a formula that sells, is recognisable and, most importantly, easy-to-listen to… A perfect recipe for the frustrated adolescent.
The new album doesn’t differ from this recipe and clearly works because audiences still aren’t full of the taste yet. It carries on the pace from their last outing ‘The Finer Things’ with explosive impact from the get-go. The first two tracks contain big distorted guitars playing rapid riffs alongside one and other with the drums continuing the typical thunderous beat utilising tight tom fills and extensive kick patterns. The bass is what you’d expect, quick strumming and the occasional sustained note, nothing new but people don’t expect new just yet. The vocal melodies are lacking the catchiness of songs like ‘Elevated’ which saw their rise to fame and I think that could be the biggest issue with the album as a whole. Let’s face it, with the exception of a screechy Tom Delonge or an aggressive Parker Cannon, all pop punk singers sound the same in the modern climate. So it is crucial that they keep their vocals fresh by delivering hooks that grab hold of the listener and tell them why they are the unique ones in an industry full of similarities. Don’t get me wrong the singer Derek DiScanio has a pair of lungs that would fit well in many areas of the pop structure, but where is the punk? Great range isn’t what comes to mind when you think of a punk anthem, which is probably why it doesn’t work too well in my opinion. More aggression, more tension and more intensity is needed to propel them into the stereos of the teens having bad days everywhere.
The albums production quality is of course high and well used. The vocal effects, the guitar tones, the wholesome bass and the booming drums work well and are the studio side of the formula I mentioned earlier. Of course it isn’t particularly original let’s be honest here. Unless you are a ‘Knuckle Puck’ or a ‘Neck Deep’, you have to be reliant on charm and noticeable differences in quality of particular areas in order to differentiate yourself from each other. This album has that, but it’s the time of charm that is corny to many and cute to the few. It’s like if you tried crossing ‘The Story So Far’ with ‘5 Seconds Of Summer’; all you get is a stereotypical pop compilation of uninventive riffs claiming to be the epitome of teenage angst. This is clearly showcased in the single ‘All or Nothing’. To call it bland would be an understatement, it’s infuriatingly boring from a musicians stand point and bit cheesy from a listener’s standpoint. The lyrics here aren’t applicable, they are commercially cringe worthy due to their obvious attempt at trying to score points with broken relationships.
The worst part is that the songs don’t pick up either, it’s difficult to determine one from the other because it just sounds like a mash up of two similar sounding songs from the band’s repertoire put in different sequences. Not even the acoustic ballad they tried pushing in there offered any differentiation; the addition of a female vocalist would of worked if she didn’t sound identical to the singer who had already appeared on all the bands work…
Overall? Not a terrible album at all, or even that bad of an album but by no means a good album. Many people see this latest attempt as a maturity of sound created by the young lads; in my opinion by doing this they have lost all individuality they had going for them.
3/10 – What they’ve gained in production quality and tone, they’ve lost in individuality.