Remember Gym Class Heroes? They’re the band that hit it big on the hip hop-rock fusion scene around 2006 with songs like “New Friend Request” (that’s 2006 for you, huh?). Fans of the group have been in the dark since 2008, when they released The Quilt.
Gym Class Heroes
The Papercut Chronicles II
Decaydence/ Fueled by Ramen
Fast forward three years and one solo career (the group’s rapper, Travie McCoy), and Gym Class Heroes are back with their fifth studio album, The Papercut Chronicles II. The record is a sequel to 2005’s The Papercut Chronicles, and by the looks of it the band would have been better off starting from scratch.
The cornerstone of this album is the less-than-stellar single “Stereo Hearts,” featuring Maroon 5’s Adam Levine. It’s no more than a dime-a-dozen pop song, and even worse because it resounds with the vocalist’s horribly nasal falsetto. Need more proof? The song equates Levine’s heart to a stereo and includes these headache-inducing lyrics: “I only pray you’ll never leave me behind / Because good music can be so hard to find.” Commence eye rolling.
“Life Goes On,” a collaboration with Denmark’s red-hot pop star Oh Land, is the record’s greatest triumph (but that’s not saying much). Her breezy, clear tones appear oddly sentimental against the gritty rapping, and it works. This song is the most unique (and repeatedly listenable) of the bunch, though it’s still distinctly “Gym Class Heroes”-esque. Our loss.
“Martyrial Girl$” involves rapping over a metal-rock base and is particularly disappointing. It accomplishes an extra-angry harshness with a surplus of profanities and agitated, unison chorus rapping. “The Fighter” sounds like another generic Top 40 track — the guest vocalist (OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder) has a decent voice and Gym Class Heroes break in every so often to rap and speak-sing the different verses. It’ll be easy to forget this one the second it’s over.
“Ass Back Home,” featuring British songstress Neon Hitch, is almost cute — which is surprising considering the title. The tune’s tale goes as follows: The everygirl laments her missing man while the band raps out its confusion with the relationship. A typical narrative, but its pleasurable melody and comforting beat make it one of the more bearable songs of the bunch.
Despite the overly honeyed quality of the album (on one track, the vocalist says, “We put the ‘us’ in ‘trust,’ baby”), Gym Class Heroes are actually legitimately skilled rappers. Beyond that, they’ve got some solid melodies and generally choose their collaborators wisely. Really, the only problem — and it’s a glaring one — is that all the music on The Papercut Chronicles II sounds like it could have been released years ago by none other than themselves. There’s nothing new here.
Even worse, Gym Class Heroes don’t appear to have any overarching artistic aims with this album all. They certainly aren’t pushing their personal musical envelope or furthering their production abilities.
Fans of the group will find the recycled-sounding record pleasant enough to support them through to the next. And for the rest of the population, if nothing else, The Papercut Chronicles II makes for barely suitable Top 40 commuting music.