Review Summary: Sounds of summer.
For close to a decade now, State Champs have been able to carve out a strong foothold in the overly saturated 2010's pop punk era; co-existing nicely with their contemporary peers Neck Deep, Knuckle Puck and – to a lesser extent – their Pure Noise brethren Four Year Strong and The Story so Far. Yet the subgenre as it exists now is a far cry from how it existed when The Finer Things
landed the Albany-quintet multiple Warped Tour appearances back when Warped Tour was still even a thing, and when Jarrod Alonge was pulling millions of views clowning on stereotypes commonly associated with the genre. Nowadays, pubescent Tik Tokers – all of whom are employing the expertise of Travis Barker – are bringing pop-punk to the mainstream full throttle, with at times aggravatingly medicore results. Oh, and the less said about Machine Gun Kelly's lyricism on the flacid Mainstream Sellout
, the better (read: "emo girl").
In a sense, Kings of The New Age
is State Champs' friendly reminder that their take on pop-punk has always been several cuts above many of the genre's offerings. Derek Discanio's partially plushy, partially gritty vocal medodies are undeniably pleasant; far more exuberant and distinct than so many other pop-punk vocalists. The soaring choruses of "Elevated", "Secrets" and "Crystal Ball" are just as enjoyable now as they were several years ago and the four-year gap between 2018's Livng Proof
and Kings of...
has left a large, yet-to-be-filled void of fun, peppy and summer-coated pop-punk to roll down the windows to. Luckily, the band succeeds admirably in filling said void and – contrary to the album's title – does away with a lot of the tropes that currently reign supreme in the genre playbook. You won't find tacky 808 beats or awkwardly shoe-horned in rap sections and features. Make no mistake, this is an undeniably 2013-record;
production choices, songwriting and all.
Unlike many bands cut from the same cloth as State Champs, who've dared to tread the ill-fated route of "maturity" to little success, Kings of...
takes the polar opposite approach to great effect. The half-time ferocity of opener "Here To Stay" is immediately captivating, as are the hyper-glistening feel-good riffs of the stadium-primed anthem "Fake It", which is destined to go-down as one of State Champ's most triumphant cuts. Throughout the entire album's runtime, the band competently doubles down on their longtime strengths; Derek is as controlled as ever, belting out oh-so catchy sing-along refrains the band has worn on their sleeve for the better part of a decade, with the urgent yet tender "Half Empty" being a noteworthy highlight. Evan Ambrosio's typically punishing drum patterns are also consistently alluring, with percussive ear-worms reigning supreme on "Eventually" and the hardcore grit of "Sundress", featuring Alan and Dan of Four Year Strong fame. Luckily, Tyler Szalkowski's riffs are no slouch either, relying on high-energy riffage that sit at the forefront of Drew Fulk's superb production, with "Where Were You" sporting some of the most memorable guitar work of the band's career. Setting aside some awkward bit of lyricism that feel a little too juvenile for the band's age ("Everybody But You") Kings of...
is absolutely everything you could ever ask of a pop-punk band who are far from being on their last legs in 2022. In the wake of Neck Deep having parted with ways with a whopping three original members and dabbling in an identity crisis, not to mention Hopeless Records catching flak for failing miserably in promoting a certain Australian band last year, Kings of...
marks yet another stupendous victory lap for the Albany-rockers. The finer things, indeed.
Act Like That
Where Were You