State Radio - Year of the Crow

Matthew Briggs 20/02/2008

Rating: 3.5/5

It seems the world and his wife have penned songs critical of the incumbent US administration and lets be honest, it's not a difficult thing to do. Even Green Day, the archetypal pseudo-punk band for misunderstood 13 year olds managed to pull it off successfully. Politically aware angst rock sells so it's no wonder bands are jumping on the now very, very big bandwagon. State Radio have less jumped, more catapulted themselves onto it.

Unless you've been frequenting the American college music scene you can be forgiven for thinking 'State who?'. The Massachusetts natives have been pretty much off the radar of every British music fan, preferring to spend their time supporting the likes of Incubus and selling out small American venues to invading us across the Atlantic. That makes it all the more surprising they chose to record their first stab at our charts, 'Year of the Crow', in the UK, making full use of producer Tchad Blake while they were over here.

The albums starts off with 'Guantanamo', a far from subtle stab at America's favourite illegal detention camp. Instantly forgettable and distinctly amateurish, it jumps between being garage punk and a melodic ode to those incarcerated, never stopping at either long enough to become a decent song in its own right.

Fortunately things begin to pick up with the reggae tinged 'CIA', a sarcastic lament for those in the agency. The almost ska-like verses interspersed with an intense, sing-a-long chorus surely make it a candidate for a single release. This is quickly followed by the first release off the album 'Gangs of Thieves', a much more rock 'n' roll offering and stinging rebuke of the “DC suits”.

Showing that they're not just partisan ponies, they even touch on the subject of Sudan in the track of the same name. “If I had wheat to burn/and I had a lot to learn/it still would not matter what colour you were” sings ex-Dispatch member Chad Urmston, a man who's activism against the genocide in the war torn country has won both him and the band many fans in the US.

The closing track, the anthemic 'Fall of the American Empire' has pangs of Oasis' overly long hit single All Around the World but without the pompous, Beatlesesque aurora about it. It's the perfect sign off for a very politically charged hour or so.

This album does have the occasional dip in quality, none larger than the aforementioned 'Guantanamo' but the majority is a joy to listen to and will certainly get people thinking which is probably what they set out to achieve. As the old adage goes, “opinion's are like arseholes, everybody has one.” The only difference here is that State Radio's may well be worth listening too.

Release date: 03/03/08