When bands take long breaks from music, the common denominator is that they don’t return to the success they had when they began. Gym Class Heroes‘ long-awaited return to the hip-hop/rock scene has arrived in the form of a part two, entitled The Papercut Chronicles II.
Measuring up against part one seemed like a heavy challenge weighing against the four-piece from New York, but this album is the return to form. Beginning with “Za Intro” (an obvious reference to their previous work), a computerized voice introduces prospective listeners to the new record and emphasizes their return with the statement “it will blow your mind.” That is left to your interpretation.
Second track “Martyrial Girl$” opens with vocalist Travie McCoy doing what he does best: spelling out his disgust for the music scene. Lyrically, his flow hasn’t slowed and the tongue-in-cheek humor remains intact (i.e. I’m Christopher Walken/I’m on my Papercut shit/thank god for walk-mans). “Life Goes On” is a slower, more melodic piece featuring a guest appearance by Oh Land. The chorus is strong on this one, but the transitions could have used a little more work. “Stereo Hearts” is the song that has them destined for radio-rock/mainstream greatness. Complete with a stellar guest vocal by Adam Levine of Maroon 5, the track bounces around with just the right amount of sugarcoated love lyrics, uplifting melodies, and bob-your-head feel. If that was their aim, they hit the mark. It’d be foolish not to expect mainstream success here.
Following is a song very reminiscent of older GCH records, “Solo Discotheque (Whiskey Business).” It starts off with the feel of an upbeat love song, but changes into a sadder piece about loneliness. Luckily, the sappiness is kept to a minimum; it doesn’t feel too thick for its bottle, but also not too thin for the sappiness in all of us. It’s honestly a feel-good song, and I dig it. “Holy Horseshit Batman!!” (yes, that’s the title of it) deals with the conflicts of religion and judgmental/closed-minded people. Regardless of your take, his stance is one to be appreciated. It plays on the down-beat, keeping things more solemn than giddy; and the chorus is also very well done.
Another single, “Ass Back Home” could easily stir lots of radio play if they choose, as it features a very tweaked vocal performance by Neon Hitch as well. Where the album stumbles is that although it is drenched in great melody, it feels shallow at times and not very genuine; an example of this is “The Fighter” featuring Ryan Tedder of One Republic. It tries hard to be the uplifting fight song it was obviously intended to be, but falls short because of its super pop appeal. Just a bit too sugary-sweet for its intentions. Album closer “Kid Nothing and the Never-Ending Naked Nightmare” is so incredibly out there it’s hard to believe it’s on the same record with the rest of these other tracks. Lyrically, it’s all over the place, pretty much making no sense. It’s catchy though, which is its sole redeeming quality. Not the best way to go about this, but you have to give them props for going the ballsy route rather than the cliché one.
Like a roller coaster, this album has its ups and downs, but luckily the more redeeming qualities stand out against the faults. Honestly, this isn’t the comeback I expected. It’s solid, but its pitfalls lie within the varying styles arranged, along with the mainstream appeal. Again, that is left to interpretation. If you prefer most of what plays on top 40 stations, you’ll have a place reserved for this one in your heart.