Chief State – ‘Tough Love’

By Si Watten

Mention “Canadian pop-punk” and bands like Sum41 and Simple Plan instantly spring to mind. There’s a new kid on the block now, though, and they’re called Chief State; a five-piece pop-punk band who are selling out shows across Canada and receiving heaps of praise for their previous two EPs. Their debut full-length album, ‘Tough Love’, consists of 22 minutes of high energy pop-punk, cut into seven catchy tracks that wouldn’t seem out of place on a record by any well-established pop-punk band.

The album opens with an exciting, hard-hitting drum intro for ‘Try Hard’, and what follows is a classic pop-punk anthem with solid technicality that starts off calm, before upping the tempo with a crowd pleasing chorus that makes you want to get involved. ‘Try Hard’ is a great introduction to the band, there’s no holding back and it’s a true testament to what Chief State are about.

‘Deciduous’ is a brilliantly clever song, particularly lyrically in its references to seasonal affective disorder as the change of seasons cause changes in mood – “I am deciduous, dying with the changing of seasons”. It’s a reminder that, whilst some people continue unaffected, others struggle through, in a similar way to the changing state of foliage throughout the year. Whereas most songs about depression are slow and dulcet, it’s quite the opposite in this case; the guitars are again catchy and clean, the fast drumbeat gives no clues and you’ll most likely find yourself strumming along to the sell-out crowd of your imaginary bedroom gig. It’s only when you start to concentrate and interpret the words that the song reveals the layers underneath – most notably how on the outside, people can be their normal cheery upbeat self, but things aren’t always as they seem.

Prior to the album release, ‘Reprise’ was released as a single and gave an inkling of what they could do, however it’s just the tip of the iceberg. The band stepped it up here with a punchy intro that reiterates Chief State’s decidedly-strong love for pop-punk. Despite the verses suffering from being considerably basic, the band make amends and recapture listeners with another impressively beefy chorus. You’ll inevitably find your head nodding, and live crowds will surely sing-along to what is easily the best chorus on the album.

‘Choke’ starts slow, and touches on a subject that will always be difficult; comforting someone we care about, be it a friend or a significant other. The lyrics emphasise positivity through tough times, and the importance of true friendship. The song leans on production to add a poppy touch for the first minute or two, before returning to what they do best with yet another big jump-around chorus.

As debut albums go, it’s far from obvious that this is Chief State’s first full release. The songs are well written, catchy, and easy on the ears, and the end result is a high-quality album for anyone who enjoys pop-punk. There’s plenty of scope for Chief State to take up the Canadian pop punk mantle, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t.

SI WATTEN

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