State Champs: Around the World and Back – Album Review
I first heard State Champs when their debut album The Finer Things was released, and I was very impressed. It was a great first full-length album – not perfect – but it definitely had a lot of potential and was a solid addition to the pop-punk scene. I had seen them touring The Finer Things whilst supporting the Pop Punk’s Not Dead Tour and they were an incredible live act. I then saw them headline in Southampton with Knuckle Puck as support. State Champs know how to put on a good show, and when I got to meet them they are all incredibly friendly, nice guys. When Around the World and Back was released I was excited to see how State Champs had developed and where their music had gone.
Sadly, I was disappointed with Around the World and Back. It’s not a bad album, it’s just very plain, quite mediocre, and doesn’t hold a candle to The Finer Things.
The first track Eyes Closed starts with a pounding drum line, screeching guitars, and a great pop-punk hook – what a great intro to the album! This is one of the best songs on the album due to the raw pop-punk vibes. It has a fairly standard chord sequence, lyrics about relationships, and a simple song set-up. Nothing to write home about, but not a song you actively skip over.
Secrets was the first single to be released and on my first listen I thought it was a great little song. The vocal lines had a nice crunch to them, the guitars played off with each other nicely, and the drums were executed excellently. However, after quite a few listens, the song has become incredibly stale and I can’t quite explain why. As is the case with a lot of this album, it just comes down to the fact it’s a fairly standard pop-punk song from a young band. There’s nothing special about it. And that does seem a little worrying for a lead single.
Losing Myself sounds a little more like bands coming out of the UK pop-punk scene such as Neck Deep and Roam. It is a much stronger single than Secrets in my opinion due to the greater sense of development for the song structure and the drum line is amazing. If you take anything away from this album, it should be that the drummer Evan has outdone himself. The little fills thrown in throughout the album and the mastering/mixing of the drums are really impressive. The issue with Losing Myself is that the lyrics stray into the emo category of pop-punk, but the music just feels wrong for the story of the song.
Following this is All You are is History, which is an incredibly forgetful song. I feel it is one of the weaker links of the album and it disappointed me on my first few listens as it almost seemed like a filler track. It didn’t seem to have the development of other songs.
Perfect Score just felt embarrassing. At this point in the album, when you reminisce about The Finer Things, you notice that State Champs appear to have opted for the poppier side of the genre. This is one of the songs I wouldn’t judge you for skipping.
I love the intro of All or Nothing, I think it’s a solid track with some great lyrics, some beautiful guitars, a great vocal line, and once again those drums are great! This song is a contender for my favourite on the album. It’s a traditional slow pop-punk song (which does feel out of place following Perfect Score) and it does a damn good job ticking all those boxes for the slow song of the album.
Shape Up throws us back into the pop-punk mix as another standard song with standard chords, a fairly standard hook, and angsty lyrics about wanting to rebel. Not a bad song, but nothing great.
Back and Forth is another standard song. I started to get bored at this part of the album. These songs are something we’ve all heard before, but there are better versions of the same thing. This was another song that unfortunately felt like filler.
Now we reach the titular song; Around the World and Back. It’s a beautiful acoustic song with some fairly good lyrics. Derek did a great job with the vocals on this track and the instruments have all worked very well together. You don’t feel like any parts of the song overwhelm or cover other moments. But then disaster strikes and you suddenly realise the song is a poor rip-off of A Part Of Me by Neck Deep, or perhaps How I Go by Yellowcard. It’s another song on the album that highlights there are other bands that have created the same song before, just in a slightly better way.
Breaking Ground is probably the heaviest sounding song on the album and it is definitely a breath of fresh air. Without this song, the whole album would feel like it lacked the crunch you expect from a pop-punk band. It also has a great bridge with a fun guitar lick and some choral vocals that build the song into being a contender for the best song on the album.
Finally we come to Tooth And Nail, which takes us full circle and sounds like the first half of the album. It’s a traditional pop-punk song with a fun guitar lick, palm muted guitars, standard structure, and is of course about a break-up. This is what State Champs are good at and it shows.
Ultimately I was disappointed with the album, as after seeing and meeting State Champs, and listening to The Finer Things regularly, you would have hoped that Around the World and Back would be the best pop-punk album of the year. The band has worked so hard to create their fan base, their debut was incredibly good, and they put on fantastic live shows (you really do need to go and see them); but their follow-up album just felt lacklustre. There was nothing special about it and it felt too safe. It’s one of the albums that you can listen to, but it will never be your favourite. State Champs still do pop-punk better than many of the current bands in the scene, but you just know they are capable of superior music.
I’m giving Around the World and Back three skateboards out of five.