State Champs – ‘Unplugged’

By Gem Rogers

In the ten years since State Champs first made their way onto the scene, they have steadily created space for themselves in the hearts of pop punk fans everywhere. There’s something about them that perfectly combines the electric vibe of the mid-2000s with fresh, boundary-pushing sounds; continually creative and always elevating, State Champs make a habit of finding our expectations and gleefully exceeding them, and new EP ‘Unplugged’ is no exception.

With a fairly self-explanatory title, the band have delved deep to create four new acoustic tracks, marrying them with a couple of reimagined favourites from 2018’s ‘Living Proof’. Coming from a band who already have form for truly great acoustic songs – ‘If I’m Lucky’ from 2014 EP ‘The Acoustic Things’ is often a well-loved component of State Champs live shows – those expectations are once again fairly high, and you can’t get off to a much better start than a track that features a Saxl Rose sax solo.  ‘A Thousand Hearts’ is instantly soothing, the perfect tonic for frantic, anxious days (and let’s face it, there have been plenty of those lately), and luckily for us it’s a theme that continues into the five tracks that follow.

It can be easy to get hung up on the stereotype of pop punk vocals being, well, just a bit on the nasal side, and not necessarily the kind that lend themselves well to stripped back acoustic numbers. It’s far from the case with Champs’ Derek DiScanio, though, and there’s a sun-drenched warmth to his tone that makes these songs work so well, bringing out the depth in often emotive lyrics. From the lilting melodies of ‘The Recipe’ to the gentle vulnerability of ‘10AM’, it’s unlikely you’ll reach the end of ‘Unplugged’ without finding your heartstrings pretty firmly tugged upon.

The EP finishes up with ‘Criminal’ and ‘Dead & Gone’, originally upbeat songs that have created somewhat of a riot at live shows since their release in 2018 (and by State Champs’ already high standards, that’s pretty damn riotous). One of the best things about these reworked tracks is that they don’t feel like a cut and paste acoustic job; instead, these tracks are a true reimagining, showing a different side to their character. ‘Criminal’ takes on a country-esque swagger that suits it surprisingly well, while ‘Dead & Gone’ channels the song’s anthemic energy into a soft lullaby that smoothly rounds off the EP.

What’s clear is that ‘Unplugged’ isn’t just a side project or afterthought – this is a focused, well-crafted release from a band who give their all to everything they create. An acoustic EP will probably never be quite as exciting as a full length, full band studio release (fortunately, there’s currently one in the works), but if you’re in need of something to take the edge off the long, hot summer days and provide comfort in the darker nights to come, this is exactly what you’re looking for. And we definitely won’t complain if Saxl Rose makes more appearances in future, either…

GEM ROGERS

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