If there's one band that have taken the modernisation of pop punk and ran with it, it's without doubt Albany New York's State Champs. Their debut record The Finer Things hit with such a balance of melody and pace that you couldn't help but feel like the quintet were an outfit that were certain to catch on fire; turns out, it didn't take them long to become the band at the forefront of pop punks new melodic charge.
The bands third album Living Proof finds them in the space and time in their career where they have little room for failure or complacency, and despite the fact that State Champs' last two albums have bought them undoubted success - we've seen before that one dud record can send a band from prominence to impertinent. In a fashion that would suggest they've been destined for greatness this whole time though: the New Yorkers take the ball here and ram it down your throat.
State Champs' easy going, charming nature to their song structure has been retained here, but whereas the bands previous record Around The World And Back had a tendency to flirt with pop rock a little too often, Living Proof brings back the musical urgency of The Finer Things with the added token of five years extra experience and craft.
'Criminal' and 'Crystal Ball' paint the picture of what State Champs are perfectly: loose, bouncing, early 2000's Blink 182 riffs with a supporting spine of sumptuous choruses that are absolute certs to soundtrack your summer. But don't fall into the trap of thinking Living Proof is a record that only wants to be played with the windows down in the sunshine, almost every nook and cranny of modern pop punk is covered throughout its 13 song lifespan.
While for the most part the impact of the record is delivered with the most force by vocalist Derek DiScanio, his moments to shine are propped up by the delicacy behind lead guitarist Tyler Szalkowski's rhythmic tone. The beautifully candid 'Lightning' and 'Mine Is Gold' rightfully put DiScanio center stage, but there's a bigger sense than ever before here that State Champs have become a musical unit that would disintegrate without each others vital components in place.
Rather than find a band that seem stuck in their habits, Living Proof is a record that shows you a band that have all but mastered their craft. Everything about this record speaks of the State Champs you're familiar with, but just on a much grander scale. The split production job between legendary producer John Feldman and Around The World And Back contributors Mike Green and Kyle Black is crystal perfection too, the band have never sounded this huge, and in a time where squeaky clean production is becoming less relevant by the minute - Living Proof benefits from a backdrop of sonic clarity.
Adding a cherry on top of this multi layered pop punk escapade though are 'Time To Go' and 'Time Machine', while some emotive love songs in the genre feel tokenistic in their delivery, neither of these tracks suffer this fate - with the latter featuring vocals from Blink 182's Mark Hoppus. Simplistic, rousing, and stunning - State Champs pull on your heart strings with ultimate aplomb here.
There's a checklist full of reasons why if you were hooked on State Champs to begin with; Living Proof is going to be the album you fall in love with the hardest. And this in itself may be the bands greatest strength, three albums in and the New Yorker's have taken a style which can fall flat awfully quickly and consistently pushed themselves to improve at it, if Around The World And Back seemed like a slight setback: Living Proof puts State Champs directly back in the driving seat of pop punk.