Gym Class Heroes follow-up lacks cohesion

Anjli Mehta

The digitized voice on the introductory track of the latest Gym Class Heroes album, The Papercut Chronicles II, states he’s “back to blow your mind.” He’s right. The sequel to the band’s 2005 release, The Papercut Chronicles, is mind-blowing because it’s a sequel that shouldn’t have happened. The album is a disorganized compilation of pop-punk, emo-rap and lyrics that can’t help but complain about everything.

Gym Class Heroes made the crossover from Warped Tour to top 40 when they struck radio gold with single “Cupid’s Chokehold” from The Papercut Chronicles. The Papercut Chronicles II already boasts a No. 1 single, “Stereo Hearts,” featuring Maroon 5’s Adam Levine. For listeners expecting to hear the same “Stereo Hearts” radio-approved sound on the rest of the album, think again.

The album also features collaborations with Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, Oh Land and Neon Hitch.

However, the band struggles to find its own cohesive sound as the album bounces from the drum-heavy, rock-inspired “Martyrial Girl$” to the sugar-coated, pop blast of “Ass Back Home.”

“Ass Back Home,” featuring Neon Hitch, has the makings of a club hit. As the bass thumps throughout the track, Hitch’s sultry vocals steal the shine from the rest of the band. The reggae influence of lead singer Travie McCoy’s rap verses between the chorus is catchy enough to dance along to, but it’s clear that Hitch’s voice is the highlight of this track. This song proves a clear pattern on the album that the tracks with collaborations are better than those without for a reason — the band relies on the talent of its sampling artists to make up for their own lack of it.

“The Fighter” is another collaborative effort that makes you wish for more of its featured artist, Ryan Tedder, and less Gym Class Heroes. After McCoy spits two short, less than clever rap verses, Tedder’s vocals take the lead on the last half. In the album’s attempt at an inspirational ballad, Tedder passionately belts out, “Give ’em hell, turn their heads/Gonna live life ’til we’re dead,” while McCoy echoes futilely in the background.

The last collaboration, “Life Goes On,” featuring Oh Land’s dreamy vocals that practically melt around accompanying electronic beats. On this track, McCoy tries his hand at deeper lyrics with, “And I’m just trying to stay righteous/Sometimes I see my own face in Christ’s likeness.” Though the track is a nice respite from McCoy’s usual bigheaded, loudmouth lyrics, they fail to resonate as he prattles on about missing an ex-girlfriend. 

The band’s signature rock and rap fusion seeps through on non-collaborative tracks, especially on “Solo Discotheque (Whiskey Bitness).” The song is soaked in a high school cliche, from the record scratching to the drum-heavy chorus with lyrics that yell, “I am all by myself and I’m dancing alone.”

It practically transports you to the dimly lit basement of an underground bar where kids clad in skinny jeans and skateboarding shoes go on a Friday night to escape their parents and their homework.

Despite the decent collaborative efforts, The Papercut Chronicles II is a charmless compilation of songs that were carelessly packaged together with complete disregard for cohesion and conveniently labeled as a sequel. 

Printed on Tuesday, November 22, 2011 as:Gym Class Heroes' follow-up lacks cohesion