Review by Matty Jiles
A bit of an issue I see with lots of pop-punk coming out in recent years is that many songs feel scared to be catchy. The genre has had many bands do a great job at capturing the energy and punk side of the genre. But I feel this has come at the cost of the “pop” side. State Champs is one of the bands within the scene that embraces that sense of catchiness, and their third album Living Proof sees them taking another step to define their hooky and fun sound.
The biggest problem with this album is the fact that some of the songs aren’t anything too unique, and don’t offer much new. This is an album that definitely wears its influences on its sleeve. Songs like “Dead and Gone”, “Cut Through the Static” and “Mine is Gold” do have a sense of charm, but end up feeling lots like other pop-punk songs already written.
Part of this comes with the production choices made on the songs. State Champs turned to Mike Green and John Feldmann to split the producing duties on this album. While Feldmann has had a long track record of producing hit rock bands, his style of production and writing is extremely recognizable. Fans of blink-182’s newer work will appreciate that Feldmann’s impact helps bring out very similar traits to blink’s California album. However, this does mean that songs like “Our Time to Go” do not stand out as strong as other tracks, and end up reminding you of other bands. “Time Machine” offers a Mark Hoppus feature, but this just feels like a missed opportunity as he does not add much personality to the song. This is definitely my least favorite song on the album, as it feels a bit out of place next to others.
This isn’t all to say the album is all cookie cutter pop punk, as it does offer some fresh ideas. “Lightning” has a fantastic chorus and a creative song structure which gives every element of State Champs a second to shine. “Frozen” has one of my favorite riffs in pop punk this year and goes for a very rhythmic approach to writing that isn’t seen as much within the genre.
“Criminal” jump starts the album with a burst of frantic and upbeat pop-punk energy. Although the song does become a bit tired with hooks being used maybe two too many times, it’s a quick and fun start to this album.
“Crystal Ball” is definitely one of the albums highest points. The song is full of some fantastic guitar riffs, and drumming that keeps the momentum of the song going and upbeat. Singer Derek Discanio offers some of his best vocal presence on this track, having both a catchy melody and passion behind his singing. The chorus on this track is one of the best on the album, and personally one of my favorites from State Champs.
Living Proof is in no way a perfect album, but it does offer a sense of catchiness that the pop-punk genre is absolutely needing these days. State Champs does veer into a more radio-friendly sound with this album, but their sense of personality is still there on many tracks. There are indeed a few bumps along the way, but this is a very fun listen sure to give fans a few more favorites to add to their collection.
Favorite Tracks: Crystal Ball, Criminal, Lightning