Pop Punk is a bad genre. It is notoriously vapid, fake emotional, and at its worst shares themes and song structures that are way too similar to modern day country music than anything that resembles punk. Those are the facts. Its a style of music that relies too heavily on nostalgia and the idea that a repetitive yet catchy chorus can make up for the fact that you're listening to the same song 10 times on the same record. Pop Punk...is a dogshit genre.
Its my favorite thing, I love it. I crave it. It's amazing.
An old Punk icon once said, "I love that Pop Punk shit. It sounds like a warm summer day", and THAT is easily the most apt description of the genre I've ever heard. I don't give a single solitary fuck if I'm listening to the same song from a hundred different bands, it fills my brain with happy juice, and that is all I give a shit about! Fortunately for me, one of the better Pop Punk bands of the last decade decided to release a record just in time for the summer.
I've been a fan of State Champs since the early 10's, and along with Neck Deep, I really consider them to be on the forefront of this current wave of Pop Punk. So when I heard they were releasing something this year, I was stoked. Jazzed, even. I didn't really care for their previous release (2018's Living Proof), but I make a habit of being optimistic when it comes to bands like this. Well, the record is out, so lets talk about it!
The record opens with an incredibly well written and punchy number called "Here to Stay", that really does a great job of almost reaffirming their spot as the leaders of this new school. Sporting one of the best riffs on the album, its an earworm for sure. The following song, "Eventually", has my favorite chorus on the album, with lyrics that really stand out to me (Started running from what made me paranoid/
Eventually, it caught up to me). All around classic tune, and I can see this being a set staple for sure.
Unfortunately the following track, featuring Neck Deep vocalist Ben Barlow, was a major let down for me. "Everybody but You" was the lead single, and for the life of me I cant quite figure out why. The feature was kind of lame, and sported some incredibly cringe lyrics, even by the genres uh...."standards". I wanted this collab to feel like chocolate and peanut butter, but alas. I was brought back in with the following song titled "Outta My Head", however, which blessed me with that classic Pop Punk clunky bassline that fuels my soul, and had me doing a little two-step in my house, much to the chagrin of my cat.
"Fake It" is a very palatable, well written, almost funk pop song. Some of the bass and guitar patterns invoke a very groovy vibe, and the drumming is top notch. This song has serious mainstream potential. I'm talking "you'll hear this in a CW show" potential. Another highlight on the album immediately follows, with the song "Half Empty". A pretty rocking love song featuring Chrissy Costanza of Against the Current fame. This song has big wedding song energy. The acoustic version! Pretty sure a full band performance of this at a wedding would kill someone's grandma...
"Just Sound" was boring to me, felt like I heard it twice already on the same record. No other notes really.
However, "Act Like That" was my favorite song on the album by far! Has an excellent groove, great band performance, and has the best vocal performance from singer Derek DiScanio. This song also has a vocal feature from country artist Mitchell Tenpenny that really stands out (see my aforementioned note about it being eerily similar to country). The next two songs were hit or miss for me. While "Where Were You" isn't bad necessarily, I just kept forgetting it was on the album. It feels like it was a leftover song from the previous record. And "Sundress" has a great chorus, but a boring feature from members of Four Year Strong. Which is sad because....Four Year Strong, y'know?
The record *does* end on a solid note with album closer "Some Minds Don't Change" though! A big anthemic pop rock song that I'm sure will be heard at the end of the bands setlists for years to come. Lyrically impactful, and wonderfully performed, this is a banger.
State Champs put out one hell of a record! I never go out of my way to say that a band could release something that rivals or is better than their debut, but this is damn close.