ALBUM REVIEW: ‘The Finer Things’ - State Champs
State Champs - The Finer Things
Release Date: October 8th, 2013
Record Label: Pure Noise Records
Reviewer: Jake Hook
State Champs may not be heralded as saviors of the genre like some of their peers in the quasi-subgenre of “Defend Pop Punk,” but for what they do, they do it quite well. They’re not great innovators, they don’t take as many risks as others, but their strong points lie in their refinement of past efforts and a keen sense of awareness of developments in the scene around them. This in contrast to many pop punk bands out there, who are equally content in their style, but whose style is unfocused, derivative, or underdeveloped due to a lack of planning. ‘The Finer Things’ capitalizes on the success of The Wonder Years’ ‘The Greatest Generation’ by coming in with concise narratives and tight, melodic playing. And singing about how much it sucks to get older rather than how much it sucks when your girlfriend breaks up with you seems to be in vogue in pop punk these days, so State Champs’ use of this device comes at a time when capitalizing on it will yield the best results, signaling a move by even the less-recognized among pop-punk bands towards more thoughtful introspection.
The opening track “Elevated” is about as catchy as they come, filled to the brim with hooks and maudlin sloganeering that’s easy to swallow but not needlessly saccharine. “Deadly Conversation” follows up with more substantial riffing and some more complex structure, standing out as an album highlight with its anthemic, fist pumping chorus. A number of these tracks fall prey to what a lot of crossover acts do, that is, standing more on the side of pop than punk, with excessive vocal modulation and predictable music, as can be occasionally detected on tracks like “Hard To Please” or “Critical.” Make no mistake, as heavy as this music is they probably aren’t going to be the next You Me At Six, in fact it’s borderline easycore in a lot of places. In a way, it feels like these tracks are simply watered down versions of tracks they worked harder on like “Over The Line,” whose strong points include poignant, memorable slogans, in contrast to when frontman Derek Discanio attempts to wax poetic about getting bummed.
But we do have to remember, this is the debut by a band still learning what it is it does best. And for the most part it’s headed in the right direction, like on “Mind Bottled.” The band never lets up in intensity or in accessibility, and Discanio is at his most charming, with lyrics like “was it all worth it/I built the highest bridge just to burn it.” It’s not gut-wrenchingly deep, but it is something to mull over when you’re singing along with some friends. Again, it’s when the songs aren’t the kind you can easily pump fists to that it falls apart. A band like Fall Out Boy may have been able to pull of writing lyrics while sitting next to an open thesaurus, but this is not that kind of band. State Champs show very little restraint, which is not in itself a bad thing, but when cramming in as many lyrics as you can into this kind of music, it tends to feel forced and comes off exhaustingly.
State Champs is a band who will see its star rise quite quickly in the pop punk community, no doubt. Likely they won’t rise to the top of the pile to rest among Tigers Jaw or the like if they continue in the same vein, but their style is incredibly endearing and I predict them to be live favorites come next summer. Their musical direction from here on out is anyone’s guess, but they’ve got some real potential for artistic triumph.
State Champs Team Up With Steve Klein
State Champs will be teaming up with Steve Klein and Sam Pura to record their new full length at The Panda Studios in Freemont, CA. We should be expecting the album to come out in late summer/early fall 2013.