Article by KevW
State Champion began life in Kentucky as a solo, home recording project before expanding into a full band over the course of several releases, including two LPs. They describe themselves as a "rock 'n' roll" band, and really, due to that being such a wide-ranging genre, it's difficult to argue. However, to pinpoint their sound more specifically then perhaps alt-country might paint a better picture. They cite Neil Young as an influence, and that shows on new record 'Fantasy Error', although it's not quite as straightforward as that. Bookended by the tracks 'Sunbathing I' and Sunbathing II', you can listen to those alone and get a snapshot of what lies in between.
The former eases its way into view with some quiet, atmospheric acoustic guitar before gradually waking up and incorporating the rest of the band, which includes plenty of traditional instruments that push the emphasis away from the "alt" just a little, and perhaps more towards country-rock and folk. The song also introduces the first taste of occasionally smutty or dark lyrics ("the dungeon where the dead do roam... I don't need no one to jerk me off..."). 'Sunbathing II' also fades in quietly with a maudlin feel both lyrically and musically. You get a taste of the overall atmosphere of 'Fantasy Error' and also its tendency to switch from the more upbeat to lower-key, perhaps more emotive tracks such as 'Brain Days'.
If the opening track leaned closer the country side of things, then second track 'Don't Leave Home Without My Love' has a grittier alt-rock vibe and fits in with the long linage of US bands who've been doing the same since the 1980s, and 'Wake Me Up' continues this as though it were a mid-'90s band with a penchant for sneaking a little fiddle into the background. It's perhaps the best single contender here. Twice as long but using similar influences is the somewhat grand 'No Pleasure'. You can sense the Neil Young influence on the impassioned 'There Is A Highlight Reel', but as traditional as it sounds at times, those alt-rock tendencies still creep in. It would be difficult to describe 'Fantasy Error' as a happy album, and it's perhaps the title-track that sums this up best with lines like"why's everybody always picking on me?", it starts off fairly downbeat but showing flashes of the alternative influences who pop up throughout the record. An interesting blend of the past and the present, State Champion have taken what they need and crafted their own take on traditional American music.
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