Friday, December 6, 2013

State Champs And The Finer Things

State Champs
State Champs are in an odd place. They could be pushing pop punk around but let the genre push it around instead. This might be all right because the band doesn't pull any punches, but let's be honest.

Almost every punch is above the belt, making this a cleaner release than the Overslept EP last year. The sound is so crisp some reviewers have called it a model pop punk album, which is partly why it took a few extra weeks to review it.

The Finer Things deserves to be reviewed, just not without a caveat of what could have been. The Finer Things would have benefited from the band's earlier grit. On the plus side of that equation, it does give frontman Derek Discanio a forum for his voice. He can sing.

The Finer Things is an outing that is fantastic and familiar. 

Some of the direction had to come from producer Steve Klein (New Found Glory) and maybe even engineer Sam Pura (The Story So Far, The American Scene). Both of these behind-the-band men know the genre well enough and how to make someone like Discanio ascend while retaining attitude.

Elevated is easily the most talked about track for exactly that reason. It's a memorable opener that sets the bar for Discanio pleading with some solid one liners against catchy, hook-laden musicianship. It's a great song and it sounds even better live in the tiniest possible venue.

Expect good times, even if Elevated is a disgruntled break-it-off song. Discanio delivers it all convincingly enough, discontent because he hasn't had a chance to plead his case. It's emotive, opening up and letting some weakness out.

As good as the song is, the lyrics in Deadly Conversation are easier to relate to. In this track,
Discanio turns the tables and takes charge as he comes to terms with it. He recognizes that the break up was painful, but doesn't brood about it. The break up is bad, he more or less sings, but not so bad when measured against life.

There isn't too much to hear in the next three tracks. While the chords in Hard To Please take a stronger texture, Discanio doesn't adapt enough to the instrumentation. It's listenable while also being a missed opportunity to push his diversity. Simple Existence almost falls in these three as passable.

It takes some time to reach Remedy, which originally appeared on Overslept. Listening to both releases back to back, I lean toward the original dirtier recording. But each version is good and different enough that owning both is a bonus.

It could have come out earlier, but anyone who enjoyed the EP last year won't be disappointed. The same can be said for the recast Critical. The new recording pulls out the vocals, making them significantly more prominent. Consider a coin toss between the two. Both are great tracks.

The bottom half of the album, from Remedy on, does everything you want the band to do. Nothing's Wrong has a sharply defiant tone and a smart chorus. Mind Bottled opens up possibilities of what might be next. Easy Enough ends with a note of empathy and resolution.

The Finer Things By State Champs Wins 5.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

All in all, it's a fine label debut that will give the band more confidence to pick up where they started last year. It's also a great excuse to listen to their first self-produced LP in 2011 and self-produced EP in 2010. You'll likely find a balanced sound among the band members, giving Tony Diaz, Tyler Szalkowski, William Goodermote, and Evan Ambrosio a balanced distinction.

You can find The Finer Things by State Champs on Amazon. The album is also available from Barnes & Noble and can be downloaded from iTunes. Check out Overslept too. State Champs are currently booked with a heavy tour schedule. Check out show dates on Facebook.
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