Gym Class Heroes – As Cruel as School Children
Record Label: Decaydance / Fueled By Ramen
Release Date: July 25, 2006
I’ve mentioned on a few of my reviews that I used to be heavily into plenty of bands on Fueled By Ramen Records from the early to mid-00s, like Fall Out Boy, Paramore, Cobra Starship, The Cab, as well as a few others. However, the one band I could never get into was hip-hop/pop-rock band Gym Class Heroes. My theory is that it’s just because I was never into hip-hop/rap music, but ironically, I’m getting into a lot more now, so I definitely wouldn’t mind getting into this band at all. I did know a few songs by them such as “Cupid’s Chokehold,” but mainly because that features Fall Out Boy singer Patrick Stump and I adore that man to pieces. That’s not the point, though. This song I knew very well, so I figured that the album As Cruel as School Children is the album I should start with, and I managed to find a copy of it at my local FYE for $5, so I was quite pleased. Was I pleased with actually listening to the record? Yes, and no. I have very mixed feelings on this record for a couple of reasons. The thing that really kills this record for me isn’t the mixture of hip-hop and pop-rock, because that’s fantastic and works very well, but it’s mainly the lyrics. Frontman Travis “Travie” McCoy isn’t the best lyricist of all time, and his lyrics are either very enjoyable or awful. There are a few songs on this record that have terrible lyrics, but very solid instrumentation, and that’s why I keep going back to them. The most interesting thing about this record, though, is the whole entire theme of it, really. Well, not through the lyrics, but the album title. The album title is about school, and ironically, so is the band name. What’s interesting, too, is that the titles of the songs are placed in school periods, and even include interludes that are “lunch,” and “yearbook club.” I was actually apart in yearbook club in high school, but that’s another story for another day. I actually enjoy the whole “school” theme, running through that record, but it is rather odd, nonetheless. Well, with that being said, let’s go back to school for about 48 minutes, and take a listen to As Cruel as School Children, shall we?
The record begins with “The Queen and I,” and it starts off with an acoustic guitar riff from Disashi Lumumba-Kasango accompanied by a very prominent drumbeat by Matt McGinley. Of course, McCoy takes the mic and shows off his rap skills. In all honesty, he’s a very enjoyable rapper, but not on this song. The only interesting part about this track is the very intricate acoustic guitar riff because it has a rather Spanish vibe to it, honestly. McCoy also employs the use of singing, too, and well, he’s not a very good singer. That’s one major criticism I have with this record, because he tries to sing at various points in the record and it just doesn’t work. My second gripe with this record are McCoy’s lyrics at various points, too, including this track. The lyrics aren’t horrendous, but rather mediocre, however. Second track “Shoot Down the Stars” is a bit better. The only thing that kind of bugs me is that it sounds so similar to “The Queen and I,” though; its backbone is an acoustic guitar with a very loud drumbeat. The only thing that’s different is the chorus, and McCoy sings on this song, and while it’s not bad, I still don’t like his singing a whole lot. Third track “New Friend Request” is a really interesting song, however, because this song is outdated, to be completely frank. It talks about McCoy meeting a girl through MySpace and talking to her online. Well, it’s not totally outdated because people still talk to each other online, but even so, MySpace is rather irrelevant now, despite owner Justin Timberlake opening it again. Anyway, this song’s not bad, even if the lyrics are outdated. Moving on, fourth track “Clothes Off!!” is a highlight for me for one reason – Patrick Stump makes an appearance on this track as well as “Cupid’s Chokehold.” He sings the chorus on this song, and it’s great. While the lyrics are a bit awful, the music itself is actually very enjoyable. That’s the main reason I really enjoy this reason because the music itself is fantastic.
Fifth track “Sloppy Live Jingle, Pt. 1” is another very interesting song, because it’s not a song at all. It’s the first of three interludes, basically, that are “skits,” so to speak. It’s merely just McCoy reciting a poem about a girl he met at a bar, and there are three parts that show up throughout the record. It doesn’t do anything for me, but thankfully, it’s gone just as quick as it started. Sadly, though, the new few tracks are rather forgettable, except for sixth track “Viva La White Girl.” This song has a very “groovy” vibe and I just get a very groovy vibe throughout it. It’s great. He also employs his singing here, but it’s not that bad, surprisingly. The next couple tracks are quite forgettable, but “7 Weeks” is memorable for one reason – The Academy Is vocalist William Beckett sings the chorus. After the rather bland, “It’s OK, But Just This Once,” the next part of the “Sloppy Live Jingle” comes in, and it’s just McCoy talking more about the girl he met. It’s kinda boring, but again, it’s short, so it’s forgivable. After that track, the next few songs are rather forgettable, too, sadly. That leads me to something else about this record that I’ve noticed – it’s a much more “fun” record than deep or meaningful. While the instrumentation is very solid, the lyrics and the overall vibe of the record aren’t very introspective. Case in point, twelfth track “Scandalous Scholastics.” This track is my least favorite on the record for one reason, and it’s the lyrics. These lyrics are horrendous, because it’s all about how McCoy is having sexual relations with one of his teachers and it’s just… Disturbing, really. It’s the only song of its kind, thankfully, but it’s a really awkward and strange song. When 14th track “Cupid’s Chokehold” rolls around, however, that song is completely forgotten about; that’s my favorite track on the record, hands down. I absolutely love that song, and as I mentioned in the beginning of the review, Patrick Stump also appears on this track, and it’s just fantastic. This song also samples Supertramp’s “Breakfast In America,” specifically the chorus, but ironically, the song really works with that, though. Trivia fact: Katy Perry appears in the music video, because she was dating McCoy at the time. After this track, the third part of the “Sloppy Live Jingle” ends the record, and it’s a rather awful way to end a record, frankly. The story wraps up, but it’s rather weird, and just plain awkward.
Essentially, I have very mixed feelings on this record; on one hand, I love the alternative hip-hop sound, but on the other hand, I don’t really like the lyrics at all, well, in very rare cases, anyway. McCoy’s a very solid rapper all throughout, but his singing can be rather grating sometimes. Regardless, this is a very enjoyable record. Gym Class Heroes are a band that’s not as popular as they used to be, but they still are relevant, actually, and for good reason.