ARTIST: State Society
ALBUM NAME: Tall Tales and Fiction
RELEASE DATE: 19 May 2016
COUNTRY: South Africa
GENRE: Pop Rock
Clifford Barnard – Vocals & Guitar
Mike Pocock – Bass Guitar
Petri Burger – Drums
Marchant Pretorious – Guitar
Justin Rae – Guitar & Keyboard
When I got assigned to write a review of the new State Society album I had no idea what I was in for. I knew I had heard the name before, but I had never heard anything by them; or even knew anything about them for that matter. Tall Tales and Fiction starts out without giving away too much, too quickly. It opens with Prologue, a piece of spoken word. Contemplative and atmospheric, I liked what I was hearing… Sounds like the album to come is going to tell a very interesting story.
The first actual track, Believe, thunders in with a powerful riff and some electronic sound effects. It instantaneously made me think of something Bring Me the Horizon could have done somewhere in their post-Suicide Season years. It was immediately apparent that the production was of excellent standard and that a lot of love and labour went into the mastering of this album. Clear/thick bass, a warm midrange, and stellar, crisp highs make for a wonderfully embracing soundscape. My only concern was that I felt like Believe ended very abruptly. I think they could have stretched it out just a little, providing the track with a nice exhaling breath.
It was not long before things took a turn in a very different direction than what I had been forehearing. The third track commenced and the only two symbols I could see explosively flashing in my mind was “U2”. The guitar tone and effects, the vocals, the utter catchiness… This was U2 inspired radio rock at its finest. Upon this realisation, one of my first thoughts was “Oh shit, this is so far out of my comfort zone!” But I decided to scrape together every ounce of willpower I had and stay as objective as any good slave would to its master… or mistress.
Something I quickly came to realise was that State Society definitely wear their influences on their sleeve. Many of their song start off with an instant feeling of familiarity. I couldn’t always put my finger on who exactly certain songs were reminding me of, but I could definitely pick up on a couple of strong influences. Let it Be made me think of what it would sound like if the Foo Fighters and Springbok Nude Girls had to collide in sweet, sensual friction. Furthermore, the intro riff of Friend of a Friend is eerily reminiscent of Going to California by the great Led Zeppelin, being met by some warm, full vocals.
Strangely enough the one song I thought immediately stood out from the rest with a really awesome atmospheric intro, delicate guitar work and deliciously sinister mood… Was a cover? Hell, I was so excited when I heard the ninth track on the album kick off; I was certain that this was packing the most punch out of all the songs thus far.
I had no idea whatsoever that it was a cover of Lonely Boy by The Black Keys until the first verse started with “Well I’m so above you. And it’s plain to see”. Personally, I don’t think they should have put the cover on the album. Many of the elements from Lonely Boy were removed; most of which are some of the core ingredients that give the song its character and attitude. It lost its heavy blues influence and was tamed so much. I was sad to hear the lyrics racing through my head but wasn’t coaxed to dance by some invisible force.
What they could have done instead, is to fashion a masterwork of their own with those exact building blocks they used to make the cover. The song has such a different flavour to the original Lonely Boy; throw some fresh lyrics in there and BAM! A State Society original, plausibly one of the strongest on the album.
Even though the majority of the album dwells in a positive light, the tracks fluctuate between happy and solemn landscapes with great effect. You can tell that the gentlemen from State Society know how to craft music which leaves the listener well prepared for what’s to come. Logical progressions and build-ups combined with catchy hooks and vocals, all supported by groovy rhythms and a solid lower register.
During the final chapter of the album things really get cranked up, with two heavy, energetic numbers lined up one after the other. First comes Dance, which sounds like it could be State Society’s anthem. It’s extremely catchy and is produced by, what I can only suspect to be warlocks. If this song doesn’t become a hit on the radio… Well, then the world makes less sense to me than what it did yesterday.
With our newfound energy attained from Dance, we get thrown into the filthy pit of Rock n Roll. Vocals and lyrics are very alluring and the guitar work, especially in the solos is spot on. I can imagine people singing their lungs out to this song. They want to Rock ‘n Roll! It definitely has that vibe… Just makes you want to shake your bits around.
Children of the Light let’s one down in the gentlest of ways, it works absolutely wonderfully after the two fast paced numbers just passed. It’s definitely one of the strongest pieces on the album.
I don’t know if We Are was the best song to give the closing spot on the album to. It’s a great song. Well written, emotional. But it feels like I’m left with unreciprocated love; like the darkness is yet to be conquered and the plot is not yet meant to be over.
Taking a step back and looking at Tall Tales and Fiction, even though I’m not particularly into “pleasant” experience; this was a predominantly light-hearted sonic journey that I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s clear that everyone involved is very adept at their respective instruments and loves doing what they’re doing.
Keep one ear on the wireless folks!
Reviewed by: Willem Maritz (more from Willem)
Shots fired by: Schutte (more from Schutte)
Date: 11 July 2016
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