Friday, 7 June 2013

Introduction to State Radio

State Radio Introduction Songs Lyrics Us Against the Crown Year of the Crow Let It Go Rabbit Inn Rebellion Album Review Chad Stokes
It feels like I’ve followed and adored State Radio since their formation in 2002.  This is likely due to lead singer Chad Stokes’s previous position in Dispatch, but State Radio didn’t come onto my radar until the release of their first album, Us Against the Crown, in 2005.  They’re a band that I feel quite close to as they’re from Sherborn, MA, which is nearby where I grew up, and they have a tendency to make Red Sox references in their songs (“I'll hold that hanger up As long as the sox put up a fight”)!  The band is now Boston-based, and released their fourth album last year.
Their first album, Us Against the Crown, was more reggae inclined than their later work.  Yet, rather than boasting messages of peace and love, it focuses on anti-war protests.  It’s motivating, but not preachy.  It was a great debut album and the response it got (particularly in Boston!) really reflected this.  Their next album, Year of the Crow, established them as a leftist-liberal band.  I like the effort of this album, but I think that they attempted to target too many imperialist victims throughout the album, leaving it directionless.  However, it’s still a fantastic album and the combination of these two made State Radio a fierce addition to the music scene in the early 2000s.

Two years later, the release of Let It Go was massive.  It included 3 discs, two of which were recordings of live performances.  At this point they had the reggae influences from their first album and the rock influences from their second album and they had to decide which direction to go.     It seems that, rather than doing this they tried to create a balance between the two – but it just resulted in inconsistency.  That’s not to say that there weren’t great songs on this album, it’s just that it feels a little incomplete.  The strongest songs on the album are rock-based, so I think if they had focused the rest of the album on that it would have been more impressive.  “Knights of Bostonia”, which emanates from this album, is one of my favorite State Radio songs and also a song that really describes them as a band.

While their next album in 2012 still had the inconsistent aspect, there were enough standout songs that this was overlooked.   This album was purely based on their social activism and had some really emotional songs.  “Freckled Mary” is about the rising drug issues facing Boston; “State of Georgia” was part of an Amnesty International campaign pleading mercy for Troy Davis, who had been on death row for 22 years; “Adelaide” depicts a story about lead singer Chad Urmston’s brother who moved away from Worcester, MA to LA with a girl he met on an Indian Reservation there; “Roadway Broken” served as a charity track after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and describes a woman searching for food for her children; "Take Cover" describes the bizarre feeling of peace we had in America, while fighting two wars.  This is what I really love about State Radio: Each song feels like a story. Stokes acts as a storyteller and each word gets you closer to an understanding.  If the challenge of discovering this doesn't appeal to you, Stokes released a commentary to give listeners a clearer understanding of his writing process and song meanings.

Yes, there are endless bands that fight for political and social change.  It’s to the point where it’s almost mainstream to do so!  But State Radio is special.  They began a social activist group, Calling All Crows, and have been working to send stoves to Sudan for many years.  There are a lot of bands that preach for change and get praised for this.  Yet, most of the bands singing about this change aren’t doing anything! Saying that there should be no war, but sitting on the couch waiting for someone else to carry out this change doesn’t make you a hero.  While it’s not as though what State Radio is doing is going to change the world, it’s refreshing to see a band using their influence in a purely positive manor.

Regardless of your political or social views (mine certainly don't always match up with Stokes!), State Radio is such a great band that they're still worth listening to.  Check out 10 really, really great State Radio songs:

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