Album Reviews

Gym Class Heroes – As Cruel As School Children

(Decaydence) UK release date: 4 September 2006

Some musical genres really should never try to have children. The whole indie hip-hop tag is a particularly noxious offspring from the almighty offensive rap-sports-metal of Limp Bizkit. Gym Class Heroes fall into a lame camp of confusion of trying to be ‘rad’ and mad, but come across as confused and sad. Radical? Tragical.

Trading on their live status and their need to bring back the fun element of hip-hop, this is like being stuck in a wacky-coloured room with four hyperactive but unimaginative goons desperate for you to like them. “Hey cheer up! It might never happen! Watch me bust a move,” were the last words they uttered as I clubbed them unconscious with Public Enemy albums…I dreamed…

Like those other one-hitters Van Bran 3000 (Drinking in LA) this whole album has a feeling of nearly but not quite hanging over it like a stink bomb. The patronage of Fall Out Boy seems to do them no favours as it merely bolsters the novelty college band smell, despite singer Travis’s limp socially conscious raps. Like a poor man’s Spearhead or a ‘jock’s’ version of Arrested Development (Speech guests on the plodding Biter’s Block) Gym Class Heroes come across as sounding splintered and unfocused of what they are.

Musically uninspiring over a parade of hip-hop, indie, latin, pop beats and bleeps, indie guitars grind predictably like a flick-book idiot’s guide to hip. The Queen And I tells of a drunk girlfriend who’s ‘only one more swallow from being oh so hollow’ (and you’re complaining?) over an acoustic strum and a ‘hey-hey’ chorus. Shoot Down The Stars contrasts a grim verse with a positive chorus of sunshine harmonies, which should be good, but sounds trite and unconvincing.

Their one track which could be redeeming, the of-its-moment track New Friend Request, plays on the desperate need to be liked on the MySpace website, just gets bored of its own cleverness and rides a sub-Jurassic 5 groove over rambling lyrical flow that is more filler than killer.

Particularly nasty are covers of Jermaine Jackson‘s We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off (To Have a Good Time) which ticks a smug ’80s referencing box with no tongue in no cheek. Ever. Similarly, Viva La White Girl’s latino balladry is a mess of styles and seven weeks becomes a drippy song destined for The O.C. soundtrack.

Most nauseatingly are the accapella ‘skits’ Sloppy Love based around Travis’s pub chat-up lines, setting himself up as a street poet but coming across as a smug prat. (Note to self and other rap bands, Never use skits to punctuate lame tunes in an attempt to lessen the pain by inflicting your lame humour on us. You’re spoiling us. No. Really. You are. Spoiling us.)

Talking of musical cross-pollination, Gym Class Heroes may apparently be able to ‘put the f u back into fun’ but on this evidence they could put something into country music (without the r). Putting the fun back into hip-hop isn’t too challenging, but their need to show the breadth of their musical styles when they can’t even master one isn’t ambition, its truly arrested development.

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Gym Class Heroes – As Cruel As School Children