Review Summary: A solid debut that reveals the band's talent and potential
While relatively unknown, Michigan punk band The State Lottery managed to achieve some level of acclaim, at least on Sputnik, with their second release When The Night Comes, which drew favorable comparisons to The Gaslight Anthem, among other bands. Cities We’re Not From is the group’s debut album, and while it does not meet the high standards of its successor, it is still a great piece of music which demonstrates the band’s powerful musical style.
Cities We’re Not From is made up of eight songs, clocking around twenty-eight minutes, quite short for an LP. However, this fact makes sure the album never overstays its welcome.
The subject matter of the album is varied. Many of the songs deal with political issues and societal problems. While a focus on such themes can often be irritating, The State Lottery is largely effective in this respect. For example, in “The Night of the Johnstown Flood”, criticism of disparities in society leads to the questioning line “please tell me why/ you have to build on top of someone if you want to stay dry”. However, Cities We’re Not From also expresses the nostalgia and memories of youth which When The Night Comes more fully explored. In “Tired Songs”, The State Lottery’s singer howls “it’s easy when you’re young”, while the rocking track “Ridgwood” is a highlight due to its infectious chorus revealing a longing for a happier past.
Musically, Cities We’re Not From is largely upbeat punk. The final track “Reach Out and Touch This” is somewhat slower-paced, but does not truly break out of this formula. Many songs have long instrumental sections, which are pulled off with skill. The album is guitar-dominated, with powerful riffs beginning several tracks, notably “Ride It Out” and “Tired Songs”. However, the harmonica also makes an appearance, particularly on “The Night of the Johnstown Flood.”
Cities We’re Not From is a great album, with many remarkable songs and an overall mood of enthusiasm. The “wohh-wohh-wohhs” in “The Night of the Johnstown Flood” are representative of the explosive Americana spirit embodied in The State Lottery. However, the album has flaws. The singer’s voice is quite raw, arguably even more so than on When The Night Comes, which might turn off listeners. In addition, the predominance of political and social commentary on the album might be a downside, depending on one’s preferences. Finally, some of the songs are not particularly memorable. Fans of the brand of music typified by The Gaslight Anthem, The Menzingers, and the Lawrence Arms are recommended to give this album a listen, although those new to The State Lottery are advised to check out this album’s follow-up first.
-“There’s no shame in moving on/ but I’ll miss you when you’re gone”- “Tired Songs”