State Champs

Around The World And Back

Written by: TL on 22/11/2015 13:06:08

Albany-based pop-punks State Champs are getting a lot of praise this year for their third full length album "Around The World And Back", which makes a lot of sense, because even if the band sticks firmly within tested pop-punk waters, it is obvious that their grasp of the genre is superior to most of their many, many contemporaries. Located somewhere in the more polished end of a tristate area between A Loss For Words, New Found Glory and Four Year Strong, the band delivers bright, summery riffs and melodies, and bouncy rhythms aplenty, complimented by the unusually capable vocal work of lead singer Derek Discanio.

While pop-punk fans have by now grown used to singers that either yell more than actually sing, or else sing so flatly that only copious amounts of digital touching up make them sound melodious on record, State Champs have themselves a noteworthy asset in Discanio, who can both sing as velvety smooth as a Justin Pierre (of Motion City Soundtrack) and as gravelly and forceful as a Dan O'Connor (of Four Year Strong), navigating between these dynamics with great touch and presence. He fits perfectly in a very tight songwriting landscape, where you really sense that the band knows its way around effectful tempo changes and instrumental back and forths, making "Around The World And Back" the kind of record that seems jam-packed with carefully refined pop-punk tunes, where single potential is more the rule than the exception. Both singles thus far released from the album, "Secrets" and "All You Are Is History", are instantly contagious, where the latter makes its mark right away with a catchy lyrical hook - "I'm a realist, and an optimist, but I swear to you, I'm not getting over this" - while the former is a great candidate for being filed under "bouncy" in the dictionary, with the fast-paced up-and-down melody of the verse sounding like something that should hit fans of Four Year Strong and even Set Your Goals right in the feels.

State Champs' upside then, is without a doubt that their grasp of pop-punk seems more lovingly expert and less lazily incidental than it does with many other bands. Their musicality simply allows them to hit you with a more immediate and consistent impression of quality. That being said, however, catapulting them up alongside genre classics like New Found Glory's "Sticks And Stones" or Fall Out Boy's "Take This To Your Grave" is definitely premature for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, despite State Champs having a strong grasp of the pop-punk genre, it's definitely debatable whether they have built a sufficiently personal expression to branch out from it. That's another way of saying that, despite its inherent songwriting qualities, "Around The World And Back" is still arguably a quite generic pop-punk record stylistically, which could and should take a bit of the top off its hype. A song like "All Or Nothing", which builds up more like a ballad and features added string instrumentation, adds some nice diversity and a bigger pop-rock touch, and more of such songs that experiment a bit with the band's core sound would have done wonders to make even more tracks stand out from the record's whole.

Secondly, lyrically State Champs have nothing on the greats of the genre, neither past nor present. Discanio and his colleagues have gone for your typical, seemingly autobiographical, perspective, singing in extreme vagaries, mainly about justifying yourself in one way or other in the face of others. It makes for content ripe with underdog mentality, yet mostly void of memorable imagery or inventive phrasings. Lines like "Shape up and stand tall" inevitably feel like they've been sung to death, from pop-punk to mallcore and back, and considering that the band has been so careful with every other aspect of their production, one wishes they had asked a little more of themselves lyrically, trying for something, if not necessarily more profound, then at least a little more playful or cohesive.

All things considered, though, "Around The World And Back" is still definitely an enjoyable listen, and a very immediately impressive one at that, being sure to put a spring in your step from the very first time you put it on. It has a leg up on most of the competition in terms of sheer musical dynamics, even if it isn't really better or worse in terms of having a charismatic identity. Regrettably it does not really have much depth to immerse yourself in once you do take interest, which figures to shorten its lifespan somewhat, but even so, it remains a strong bet for reminding you of summery vibes all through the oncoming winter.


Download: Secrets, All You Are Is History, All Or Nothing
For The Fans Of: A Loss For Words, New Found Glory, Four Year Strong

Release date 16.10.2015
Pure Noise Records

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