Jumping across genres — alternative hip-hop, electro-rock, pop-rap — The Gym Class Heroes have managed to break out of any two-or three word musical labels on their latest album, The Papercut Chronicles II. The band dared to cut loose from any genre ties, and freely mixed together electronic and rock instrumentals, computerized sound effects, Travie McCoy’s raps and pop vocals.
A computerized voice introduces the band’s bold confidence in the album’s opening track, “Za Intro.” “Hi. Remember me? Back in 2005, I introduced a world to The Papercut Chronicles. Now I’m back from retirement to blow your mind once again,” the voice announces. As a sequel to the first The Papercut Chronicles, the new album does not hang onto the original’s high school-inspired narratives – though the lyrics are just as trite. McCoy’s tendency to sink into flatly dropped angry rap segments — listen to “Nil-Nil-Draw” and “Kid Nothing And The Never-Ending Naked Nightmare” on the new album — is often salvaged by instrumental riffs, catchy choruses and pop vocal collaborators.
These featured pop vocals are what set this album apart from The Heroes’ earlier works. In “Ass Back Home,” British singer Neon Hitch’s techno-pop chorus perfectly complements The Heroes’ hard-hitting beats and raps. Collaboration with OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder in “The Fighter” made for a track that smoothly builds momentum. Along with other guest spots on the album — including Adam Levine’s appearance on the overplayed summer hit “Stereo Love” — these collaborations concentrate attention squarely on the guest artists, at times leaving the band in the background.
The open integration of these pop influences highlights the band’s inclination for blurring the lines of genre, but also reveals that they are not as strong when standing alone. The Heroes seem to have discovered a level of self-awareness that pulled them from spotlight to produce a stronger, more hit-worthy sound.