State Champs – The Finer Things (Pure Noise Records)
Debut long-player from Albany, New York pop-punk upstarts.
The world’s economy seems to be in a constant state of imperilment, forever on the edge of some precipice that an errant banker or dastardly bond trader could hoof everyone over with the flick of a mouse. We are forever told that we should look after our strongest and finest industries, as they are all that stands between us and economic doom.
Thus we give thanks for the massive moneymaking machine that churns out a never-ending stream of pop-punk albums. Take this month: US politicians squabble and the world’s markets twitch nervously, so the pop-punk machine kicks into overdrive to produce records by A Loss For Words, A Day to Remember, Save Your Breath and the debut album from State Champs, entitled The Finer Things.
Not every machine can produce top-notch output on every run – occasionally even the most reputable appliance company produces a spin-dryer that has a grandmother’s arm off. Thankfully the operator turned the knob marked ‘Quality’ the right way when Pure Noise Records ordered a State Champs LP.
The Finer Things starts strongly, ticking the genres required boxes in the first couple of minutes of opener “Elevated”: stuttering guitars, solid rhythm section, heavy on the melody. Singer Derek Discanio has precisely the type of post-teenage yelp/screech that moistens fans of a certain age group and allows others to believe they might actually have a shot at this pop-punk thing themselves.
As the album zips along it demonstrates remarkable craft for a band in relative infancy, and enough ideas to make them stand out from the shower of tedium that pervades the second tier of pop-punk bands. The genre’s recent high point has by most judgements been the third album by The Wonder Years, and The Finer Things has a commendable stab at topping it.
A couple of tracks cause it to fall just short. This type of album never, ever escapes without a spot of filler, represented here by both “Hard To Please” and “Prepare To Be Noticed”, grimly positioned next to each other in the running order. That the album survives this early stumble is testament to the strength of the remaining seven tracks, in particular “Nothing’s Wrong” – the track the gig crowds will be waiting for.
Closer “Easy Enough” proves another mosh-pleasing effort, rounding off an excellent first album by a band who manage to stand out within an over-bloated genre. Granny’s arm might be safe for a while yet.