Say what you will about Gym Class Heroes, the hip-hop/pop-punk/pop band that has recently taken music television and your 14-year old sister by storm, but very rarely does a band come along that can sum up the last 35 or so years of American culture in just twelve words. When aliens overrun our world and demand a representation of what great things we have accomplished in the last few decades, we will present this line to them and say, somewhat sheepishly, “Well, this about sums it up.” We have to take our clothes off to have a good time.
The aliens will blink once or twice, considering whether or not this race is worth keeping.
And then they will destroy all humans.
Gym Class Heroes’ are sort of like the Fall Out Boy of hip-hop. “Frontman” Travis McCoy leads the band with his clever lyrics and above-average flow, sort of like how Pete Wentz leads Fall Out Boy with his clever lyrics and above-average arrogance. On As Cruel As School Children, he writes about things we can all relate to, such as stalking girls on Myspace, alcoholic girlfriends, and freestylin’ in a bar while tough guys call you a pu
ssy. The problem is, while he’s great at writing verses, he sort of drops off in the choruses. “Shoot Down The Stars” has some of his best lines on the album, but the chorus features such underwhelming lines as “So sexy we are, so sexy we are, we just don’t know it.” In other songs, the band covers up his inability to write a good chorus by throwing in samples of children singing, which never sounds good and is always a bad idea. He makes up for it though with lines such as “The way she praised my balls was vicious, now that’s what I like to call sacrilegious” in “Scandalous Scholastics,” which is the most genius line I’ve ever heard. “New Friend Request” is perhaps the best song on the album, both lyrically and musically. Travis raps over a great beat, spitting lines like “Love it or leave it, but you gotta admit, on a scale of one to ten, I’m the shi
t,” “This is not an el-oh-el matter,” and “Who cares if we don’t know each other’s last name?” Also he complains about not being in her Top 8. See, I told you we can all relate to this stuff! For the most part, Travis is the main draw to the band, and he fills the part well.
The live instruments are done well. The band crafts some unexpectedly clever music to back their rapper up, setting Gym Class Heroes’ songs apart from other hip-hop artists who just recycle old beats. Perhaps the most skilled member of the band is the drummer, who switches it up with varied rhythms and beats, not just playing the same “boom-boom-chk” beat in every song. The guitarist and bassist don’t play anything to write home about, but they’re skilled enough for what they do, and they at least try to distance themselves from the typical pop-punk music coming out these days, even if it does become slightly overblown at times. In the end, As Cruel As School Children manages to be above average, even though Gym Class Heroes are basically just Fall Out Boy with rapping. There are some great songs in "New Friend Request," "Scandalous Scholastics," and "Clothes Off!," but there are also stinkers like "Biter's Block," "7 Weeks," and the "Sloppy Love Jingles," which are all pretty much throwaway filler. But Gym Class Heroes' flame will probably burn out sometime in the near future, so we might as well just forget their flaws and enjoy their catchiness while it’s still popular.
Besides, one day Travis McCoy will almost
save the planet.