By naming their fifth album The Papercut Chronicles II, upstate New York hip-hop/pop group Gym Class Heroes are trying to spiritually link it to The Papercut Chronicles, the group’s 2005 sophomore release that contained the first iteration of their Supertramp-sampling megahit “Cupid’s Chokehold.” But there are a few errors in this formula: first, the band turned a corner after the original Papercut Chronicles; their last two albums are unabashed attempts at mainstream popularity, and though they contained a few solid pop tracks (“The Queen and I,” “Peace Sign/Index Down“), the records were bland and textureless. It’s impossible for the band to return to the elegance and indie hip-hop of this album’s “forefather,” and they know it.
So is the title a marketing scheme? Not likely — The Papercut Chronicles is a poor model for both mainstream popularity (it didn’t chart at all) and critical acclaim (ignored by most of the community), though the album itself is actually quite a good listen. Perhaps the title is supposed to reference the return of guitars to the band’s sound, but if so, where are the smooth tones of “Petrified Life and the Twice Told Joke“? In fact, guitars rarely take the lead except on the clamor-rock-rap of “Martyrial Girl$” and the lonely-for-love mediocrity of “Lazarus, Ze Gitan.” There’s not even an ounce of the elegance of “Papercuts,” “Taxi Driver,” “Simple Living,” or the aforementioned “Petrified Life.” The album’s humor suffers too: the hilarity of “Make Out Club” or “Wejustfreestylin’pt2” puts to shame lines like “Put the Jabberwock’s cadaver with derelict juvenile,” a weak attempt at wordplay on the ultra-annoying screamy “Kid Nothing and the Never-Ending Naked Nightmare” (so seven years ago, guys).
That’s not to say that the 10 actual songs on The Papercut Chronicles II aren’t catchy — “Stereo Hearts,” likely assisted by the boost that Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine provides it, is challenging “Cupid’s Chokehold” for the band’s best-charting song, and there are a few other potential hits here, like “Ass Back Home” and “The Fighter.” But the album is just as soulless as the band’s past two releases, and Gym Class Heroes’ attempt to make it a sequel to the only album that fans like myself actually respect falls on its face because of the plain pop songwriting. Rolling Stone just gave it half a star, and though it’s certainly worth more than that, the album is yet another disappointing release from a band who seems to have forgotten who they are.
Stream: “Martyrial Girl$”
Stream: “Stereo Hearts (ft. Adam Levine)” MP3
Stream: “Ass Back Home (ft. Neon Hitch)“ MP3