Review: State Champs – ‘Living Proof’
Modern pop-punk has been on a huge rise over the last few years and many bands in the genre have come up and have received significant success from this said rise. But with so many bands in the genre now, it becomes a bit hard to keep the genre fresh and less saturate. That’s where Albany’s own State Champs comes in. These guys have been at the top of their genre in terms of quality and consistency over their peers. They’re back with their third and most diverse, cohesive record yet on Living Proof. They’ve got 13 tracks tackling different sides of the band’s sound, old and new.
The record opens with three great tracks to show what this band is capable of. It kicks off the record with a full-on anthemic banger, “Criminal”. It’s an excellent way to start off the record, summing up the band’s energetic signature sound from their first two records. This song is definitely one that will pop off live with their crowds, especially to open a set. Singer Derek Discanio’s vocal chops on this song really put him front and center as the most talented vocalist in the modern age of the genre. It really shows throughout this track, as well through the rest of the album. It continues on with “Frozen”, which opens with a fun clean guitar riff that goes smoothly into the full band intro. This song continues the energy that started the record, and showcases how well State Champs can write a chorus. The energy continues on with “Crystal Ball”, which is one of the tracks that shows off the individual members of the band. Drummer Evan Ambrosio’s skills on this track really shows how well he can structure these parts around the melody and pace of the track, and this is just one of the several times on this record that he presents himself as one of the best drummers in the genre. Guitarist Tyler Szalkowski’s balance between clean and distorted leads throughout the song really bring life and melody to the track so well. Derek’s voice shines once again in the choruses of the track, especially nearing the end. It was released as the second single from the record, and I couldn’t think of a more consistent song from start to finish to choose as a single.
The album keeps the consistency going with “Dead and Gone”, a melodic anthem which is sure to stick in people’s heads after having heard it. While the production on this track can feel a bit overproduced and throws some cliches in there, the song is one of the catchiest on the album and will be sure to do well in a live setting. It picks up the fast pace with “Lightning”, which showcases one of Derek’s most impressive vocal performances not only on the record, but out of all their songs. He pushes his voice out to an impressive amount during the chorus of the song. People will be sure to be taken aback with how well he uses and stretches his vocal cords for this song. The bridge, as well as the pre-chorus before the second chorus are also highlights of this track. Bassist Ryan Scott Graham’s back and forth vocals with Derek make this even more special then it already was. And the bridge showcases the instrumentals being impressively forward and slightly complex. The record slows down from the high energy and fast pace with the ballad “Our Time to Go”. This track shows just how great this band is at writing a slower kind of song that works in their sort of style, and in their favor. The transition from the slower verses to the huge sing-along chorus is something special for sure, and I definitely see this being one of the highlights of the record for listeners.
Reaching the halfway point of the record, we get possibly the best track out of all 13 tracks and one of the band’s best songs to date “Safe Haven”. This song is everything you would ever want this band to be on a track. It’s catchy, consistent all the way through, and just absolutely fun. The chorus is absolutely massive, to the point where it’ll be so tough getting it out of your head. I think this is one of the times this band tries their take on the poppier side of pop-punk and absolutely excels at it. It’s complimented with some nice type of background synth throughout the track and adds a lot more melody to it. There’s no doubt in my mind fans would be all over this track and have it on repeat for the rest of the summer. The next track “Something About You” opens up with a funky kind of pop-rock riff that sets the tone for the song. While the track is catchy at best, it doesn’t seem to live up to the other great tracks on this album as well as it should. And the production of the song being slightly over the top takes away from how good it could be. The album then shows off it’s experimental side with “The Fix Up”. This song takes a bit of a departure from their usual pop-punk sound and has a more slower alternative type of sound. The acoustic guitar in the background with the rest of the band really adds a sweeter flavor to the track. I definitely felt a huge The Maine influence going throughout the song, which is a sound that they can absolutely pull off. The well-written lyrics for the song accompany the slower tone really well.
It picks back up the energy of the record with “Cut Through the Static”, which is another album highlight. It focuses on the summer pop-punk type of energy this band is driven on. It’s always a joy to hear the album title make it’s way into one of it’s songs, and this track is exactly that and it’s delivered so smooth. This is a pure example at how well these guys are dominating the melodic side of the genre. It keeps the ears pleased and energy flowing with “Mine Is Gold”. This track does a very good job of distinguishing itself from the rest of the tracks with it’s bold, tempo-changed chorus. The way these verses transition from fast summer vibes to a slightly slower tempo chorus is smoother than butter. There really aren’t many bands in the modern age who can pull that off as well as State Champs does, and for that I applaud them. Nearing the end of the record, we get to easily the boldest and most out there track on the record “Time Machine”. The band pushes their limits to trying out a more pop sound on this track. While it’s nice to see they’re willing to try new things, this song ends up falling on it’s face a little bit. The repetitive instrumentals and cliched piano in the background seem to bring the song down and keep it from being it’s full potential. The highlight of this track is pop-punk father Mark Hoppus’ guest vocals within the bridge, trading off lines with Derek. This is also another instance where the production for this track doesn’t do it as much justice as it should.
The record closes with “Sidelines”, which kicks up the energy for one last time to close things out. It opens with a clean guitar and continues with a attention grabbing pre-chorus, and solidifies with a fun and catchy chorus. But the best part of the song lies within the bridge. The bridge slows things down with Tyler’s melodic clean leads and builds back up in a slow, but wonderful way back to the final chorus. It’s a very great way to end the album and really brought back the tone of the record one last time before closing out all 13 tracks. Overall, this record should definitely make fans feel satisfied, intrigued, and wanting more from the Champs. I think they did a really good job at making a very cohesive, varietal record that has something for everybody. Be sure to hear the record when it comes out June 15th and go buy it if you really enjoy it! And be sure to catch State Champs on the entirety of the final Vans Warped Tour this summer!
Watch the sci-fi inspired and pizza friendly video for “Our Time to Go” below, and let us know what you think of Living Proof!