State Champs – Kings of the New Age
Released: May 13, 2022
Derek DiScanio // vocals
Ryan Scott Graham // bass
Evan Ambrosio // drums
Tyler Szalkowski // lead guitar
You can never have too much pop punk, am I right? 2022 is the year for it and I am living for it.
After getting around Simple Plan and Stand Atlantic’s new releases last week, upstate New Yorkers State Champs are here to crash the party and join in on the festivities. I’m really not complaining though. Are you? This band have been one of my all-time favourites in the last decade (#CHAMPSFAM), and Kings of the New Age is their fourth full-length on one of my favourite labels, Pure Noise Records.
Straight off the bat, this sounds like everything we remember about the band from 2018’s effort, Living Proof. ‘Here to Stay’ stomps in with a slice of pop punk edginess and Derek DiScanio piping in with, “The Kings of the New Age, the wrong time, the right place…” It’s a reflective notion, reminiscing on where they’ve come from and how they got to where they are today. There’s a huge outburst of confidence that’s evident here; like the boys know their place in the scene. ‘Eventually’ sees Derek and the boys revisit the raw emotion they honed in on during the Around the World and Back era, as he comes to terms with his mental health amidst a pandemic. “Eventually… it caught up to me” is something we can all comfortably reflect back on.
If there’s anyone that can give Simple Plan and Deryck Whibley a run for best pop punk collaboration of 2022, it’s State Champs and Neck Deep’s Ben Barlow. ‘Everybody But You’ is an absolute anthem and an exceptional display of the reverberating energy that exists within the band today and how they’re best recognised. I particularly enjoy that throwback to a Neck Deep classic with Ben singing, “Girl you really got to me / At the party singing part of me.” ‘Outta My Head’ kicks it up further and provides endless bounds of fun with explosive pop punk sensibilities that’s sure to bring the mosh vibes when they play it live.
Pop punk and romance go hand in hand, especially when they’re produced so effortlessly. Also, it kinda helps that Derek wear his heart on his sleeve throughout this record. ‘Fake It’ highlights everything we feel when we reach that “are we or aren’t we?” stage of dating, while ‘Half Empty’ dives in to appreciate the present moments of falling into and out of love. ‘Half Empty’ is a fresh, nuanced style from the Champs boys here as they channel soaring, stadium-filled sonics in an attempt to match pop/rock energy like their peers. Against the Current’s Chrissy Costanza lends her vocals here to add a balanced duet from both sides of the story, and together with Derek, they succeed in delivering a heartfelt narrative about two former lovers.
The album’s leading single, ‘Just Sound’ feels like a renewed state of mind from the band, bridging the gap perfectly between Kings of the New Age and Living Proof. It paints a vision of the boys standing tall in their prime; they’re confident, but not cocky. They’re sticking to their comfort zones because that’s what they love. Plus, it’s also what their fans love. But of course, we as fans, are open to embracing the new, and that’s pretty evident when it comes to this country/rock number featuring US country musician Mitchell Tenpenny. ‘Act Like That’ is a summery radio-fuelled rock number that gives us summer roadtrip vibes, with the windows down, as you chase sunset drives with your favourite person of the moment.
‘Where Were You’, amidst a very Third Eye Blind guitar riff, celebrates the end of a relationship in a rather bittersweet way. Honestly, it threw me back to Every Avenue’s song of the same name, but even through the nostalgia, State Champs are very much in their element here. The energy dials up to a 10 on ‘Sundress’ for the band’s biggest song on this album. Featuring an explosive feature from Four Year Strong’s Dan O’Connor, the song helps to further shape the camaraderie that exists in the pop punk community. I found it to be the most wholesome, energetic track here, that perfectly segues into ‘Some Minds Don’t Change’. An anthem for exercising your freedom and control, and letting others let live. It’s an iconic example of pop punk’s progression throughout the 2000s and how State Champs have remained consistent since The Finer Things era.
In a time where pop punk is living through its second life, State Champs have stuck to their origins and preferred to play to their strengths. When a band has a strong formulaic style that has reciprocated well on their fan base, sometimes there’s no need to give into the pressures of keeping up with the current trends. That’s exactly what State Champs have done here, and I highly commend them for it. I currently can’t pick a favourite; these songs are the band’s biggest tracks yet.
Kings of the New Age is for the pop punk listeners that are still here for its origins and when the genre peaked in the 2000s. It’s an album for the diehards that just want to hear a catchy riff and get in the mosh, and it’s State Champs in their truest form. I have my fingers crossed that with this release, Australia finally gets the Champs headliner we’ve been waiting for.
State Champs – Kings of the New Age tracklisting:
1. Here To Stay
3. Everybody But You (featuring Ben Barlow)
4. Outta My Head
5. Fake It
6. Half Empty (featuring Chrissy Costanza)
7. Just Sound
8. Act Like That (featuring Mitchell Tenpenny)
9. Where Were You
10. Sundress (featuring Four Year Strong)
11. Some Minds Don’t Change