State Champs album review: Kings of the New Age focuses too much on the wrong things

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Some of Kings of the New Age’s tracks are just unwaveringly powerful. The lyricism and grooves from the three-piece band are a force to be reckoned with. Some bands with more members never sound this dynamic and energising. 

A lot of this is thanks to singer Derek Discanio, who dutifully carries the record through some of the band’s biggest songs yet.

Eventually is the perfect example of State Champs at their finest. Their guitar licks and intricate lyrics throw listeners into an avalanche of creativity that will keep popping into your head for days to come.

Of course, their new single Everybody But You has become one of their biggest songs to date. And with good reason. This is when State Champs are the best they have ever been. There are hints of Weezer in there, perhaps a touch of All American Rejects – but ultimately this is the band’s proof that they can still write a powerful pop hit with a difference. It sets them apart from the other standard acts in the industry without straying too far from the well-loved “pop-punk” genre.  

And, thankfully, Kings of the New Age has quite a few tracks like this.

Outta My Head – for example – feels like classic All Time Low… but with better vocals. And I’m not saying that lightly: Derek really does have the best voice in rock right now. Who else has the vocal range or the ability to pull off these intricacies? Nobody, that’s who.

Don’t believe me? Go listen to Fake It.

Here, State Champs build on their punk foundations with the catchy pop persona that gets their hooks in you. Want more? Just Sound has a chorus that feels like it has been ripped straight from a 1990s sitcom. I could listen to it all day.

Unfortunately, for me, this is where the album begins to drift off a little.

Just Sound’s final refrain and fade-out feels a little uninspired, made worse by the following few songs. In the following hits State Champs lose their unique and creative edge when they are working with other people.

No doubt, they’re joined by some mighty names on the record (Mitchell Tenpenny on Act Like That, Four Year Strong on Sundress, Chrissy Costanza on Half Empty), but these songs feel a little worse off because of it.

Act Like That is completely by the numbers and, as a result, can be extremely skip-worthy. Sundress has a similar vibe. Half Empty is the record’s only real “ballad” – but it doesn’t gel well with me at all. We know Derek can drop a tear-jerking ballad, but this doesn’t have any heart behind it. And Costanza feels completely out of place (despite her voice being exceptional). 

Even the featured verse from Neck Deep’s Ben Barlow becomes a little grating on Everybody But You.

Were State Champs working hard to accommodate their guests but losing a shade of their identity along the way? It kind of feels that way.   

State Champs are objectively better than a lot of these other acts. Their final track, Some Minds Don’t Change – a grunge-tinged anthem that allows Derek and guitarist Tyler Szalkowski to explore the depths of their talent and creativity with incredible results – proves this. I’d love to see more tracks like that going forward. 

Regardless, fans of State Champs will absolutely adore the first half of Kings of the New Age. It not only has a tonne of future classics, but it continues to progress the band’s sound into, hopefully, the big band I know they are capable of becoming.

State Champs – Kings of the New Age is out now.

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