Review ·

"State Radio seeks not to condemn those responsible for society's wrongdoings, but rather to focus on the positive and potential of the future." Okay, so the band's press bio is a little far-reaching. Rage Against the Machine it's not. The Clash it's not. But blending college rock and reggae into a better than average mix, Massachusetts trio State Radio succeeds on its debut, Us Against the Crown, where many artists with similar agendas fail: the members keep the emphasis on the music.


After achieving moderate success in the Northeast college-rock band Dispatch (their seven albums sold more than 400,000 copies), singer-guitarist Chad Stokes formed State Radio with bassist Chuck Fay and drummer Brian Sayers and toured with artists such as G. Love & Special Sauce, Matisyahu, the John Butler Trio, Slightly Stoopid, and O.A.R. I mention their tour mates only because the company they keep is a good starting point in describing their sound, as well as their lofty aspirations. Much like O.A.R., State Radio's liberal-arts-reggae finds its ideal audience with the suburban college crowd. "People to People" and "Right Me Up" certainly have a social message, but I don't know what it is, because the breezy 311-ish reggae vibe and sing-along choruses make me want to listen to the music and not worry about persecution or governmental missteps.  And that's not a bad thing.


Is Matisyahu real reggae, or does he dilute the main ingredients and sell it as a trendy gimmick to a new, naïve audience? Maybe that's a topic for another discussion, but I mention it because, like Matisyahu and O.A.R., Us Against the Crown aspires to address larger issues, but you can't help but think in listening to these artists that a large part of their motivation in picking up their instruments is to enjoy themselves. It's no accident, then, that although issues such as wrongful imprisonment ("Camilo") and the struggle of the elderly ("Mr. Larkin") are hit upon, the highlight on Us Against the Crown is "The Diner Song," a funky, happy song about love. The members of State Radio can continue to illuminate society's faults, and as long as they don't stop enjoying the medium in which they're doing it, I'll look forward to hearing what they have to say.  


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