State Radio - Us Against The Crown
In a brief, almost inaudible dialogue State Radio’s 2006 release, Us Against the Crown, begins, hinting at an album with a subversive, punk-rock edge. Quickly, though, the buoyancy of the Jamaican-style guitars resound, reverberating over heavy bass lines, giving songs like “People to People,” the first track on Crown, a rounded melody. Backed by echoing vocals, accented to flow with the guitar’s vacillations, “People to People” captures the triumphs of State Radio as the song progresses. Soon after echoing the thought-provoking line, “we will be alive just broken,” the song’s steady tempo is shattered as electric guitars grind out until the song’s end. This highlights what is to follow from the band as their album continues: songs that follow a formulaic beginning of verse/chorus dynamics, which ultimately culminate to an earth-shattering crescendo, ending the song emphatically.
One glaring exception to this pattern is the album’s second track, “Mr. Larkin.” A narrative of an old man struggling to keep his job and take care of his wife, the song falls flat, appearing too soon, and too randomly on the album to have a meaningful impact. While its story is well told through its surprisingly detailed and clear lyrics, the song’s meaning is lost through its track placement, becoming merely an indulgence in pathos rather than anything moving. However, the acoustic “Camilo” is an impressive feat for State Radio, beginning with the acoustics of a country twanged single, adding a new element to their repertoire of sound. The song progresses with an echoing, boisterous drum loop that crashes to the chorus, brining together the musical elements that create the momentum towards the album’s heaviest crescendo. The bellowing of “camilo” over the jagged sounds of guitars creates a powerful and successful contrast to the stark, shadowed hues at the song’s inception, standing out as the album’s best track.
The crescendos of State Radio become more and more accentuated as the album progresses; however, on some tracks, the droning of the songs leave you tempted to skip forward before you reach that transcendent euphony. “Black Cab Motorcade,” in particular, starts with vocals that sound eerily similar to Kurt Cobain’s, but the song sticks to the same formula that State Radio have adhered to throughout Crown, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, crescendo, which grows tiresome by the album’s end. Though many bands have succeeded with this, the band should conjure up more innovation in song structure—something that was not alleviated by the misplaced beat boxing found in “Man in the Hall.” But even mistakes prove helpful when adding a new dimension to a band’s sound, something State Radio will hopefully look into, considering they have already successfully mastered rudiments of music that many bands struggle to achieve in their careers.
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