On Tough Love, Chief State prove that they’ve mastered the brand of fast-paced, high-energy pop-punk produced by bands like ROAM, As It Is, and Neck Deep.  At seven songs, the album clocks in at under half an hour, providing a solid introduction and teaser for the rest of their career.

Tough Love is full of strong performances and musical skill. The use of different vocalists provides some refreshing diversity on the album. While all of the instrumentation across the album is impeccable, it’s drummer Chris Kavanagh who gives a breakthrough performance.

“Reprise” is one of the standout tracks on the album, with a fun, bouncy chorus and groove-filled riffs. It’s the rest of the EP, but dialed up.

Tough Love shows the band’s musical abilities, but there’s still room to grow when it comes to their songwriting and creative capabilities. The album is predictable and derivative at times. Some of the melodies and hooks fall flat, and lines like “You’re biding time through your early twenties” and “I wonder why it’s always raining in my head” indicate that there’s space for improvement lyrically.

The variation on “Biding Time” and the effect on the second verse of “Something Good for Once” are good examples of the band switching things up a little on the album, and Tough Love needs more of that kind of dynamism and diversity.

And the album hints that Chief State could do a great job at incorporating more diverse influences. “Choke,” the album’s sole slow song, has guitar picking and electronic percussion. It transitions smoothly into a pop-punk song, building to an intense and dramatic ending. It’s a welcome and effective form of experimentation that shows that Chief State is capable of so much more.

Tough Love’s biggest weakness, a challenge for any up-and-coming pop-punk band, is that it is too similar to all of the bands and material that came before it. Chief State are still early in their career, and Tough Love has listeners in anticipation for when the band comes into their own. It’s clear the band has the skills and tools to stand ou, but not a signature sound or style just yet.

Tough Love shows that Chief State have all of the makings of a great band. The album demonstrates strong technical skill, and it’s exciting to see what Chief State will do as they grow and branch out into new areas artistically.

Tough Love proves that all of the parts are there. All that’s left for Chief State to do is build.

Preorder the album here. 

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