Album Review: State Radio raises sociopolitical awareness with pop-rock reggae debut

Mike McKenna

Anyone familiar with the work of Chadwick Stokes knows there is more to his music than catchy choruses and interesting hairstyles. The former Dispatch front man’s new band, State Radio, is not exempt from this philosophy.

State Radio, comprised of Stokes (vocals, guitar), former Princes of Babylon member Chuck Fay (bass, piano and vocals) and Boston underground reggae drummer Brian Sayers, recently released their debut record, “Us Against the Crown.” Stokes, known for his free-spirited, politically charged songs has opened up a new bag of tricks for State Radio’s debut, including an array of songs that deal with the rights and challenges of the elderly and disabled, the day-to-day struggles confronted by the impoverished and the defense of conscientious objection.

The embedded messages of sociopolitical activism coupled with the band’s infectious brand of pop-rock reggae fusion makes “Us Against the Crown” a lethal combination that will undoubtedly make fans along the way.

The record’s opening track, “People to People,” essentially sums up the mission statement for the band, that people create the injustices in this world through ignorance and unfeeling, self-absorbed actions. If this concept seems too heavy for some, do not fret, it’s candy-coated with a smooth reggae beat and sing-along chorus.

State Radio’s first single, “Camilo,” highlights the inspirational story of the Florida National Guard, Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia, and his controversial decision to refrain from returning to fight the endless war in Iraq, which subsequently landed him in prison.

“Right Me Up” addresses the plight of the handicapped and exhibits their strength, all the while paying tribute to Stokes’ Boston-native Red Sox. Listeners will undoubtedly be moved by “Mr. Larkin,” the story of an elderly man struggling in a retirement home to afford his Alzheimer-stricken wife’s medical bills.

“Waitress” scrutinizes the hardships of the poor working class and the extremes they will sometimes go to in order to rationalize their endurance of injustices while “The Diner Song” takes, an albeit somewhat comical view, of how a prostitute pays her way at a local diner and how people often capitalize on the disadvantaged.

Fans of Dispatch will most likely take sanctuary in State Radio’s parallel brand of grassroots social and political campaigning through pop-rock laden reggae riffs.

However, those who may be turned off by the record’s righteous significance will certainly be able to appreciate the band’s ability to make you want to learn the words to all their beguiling tunes and bob your head at their shows, even if you abstain from growing out those dreadlocks and committing yourself to a vegan diet.

Give this track a second listen: “Camilo”

Our rating: 3.5 stars

(out of 5)