Living in upstate New York, I can be the very first person to tell you that I don't reside in an area renowned for its hip-hop. Most up here would sooner send their life savings to Toby Keith than they'd listen to that newfangled rap music. Well, Fueled By Ramen, also a label not renowned for its hip-hop acts, have put out The Papercut Chronicles, the first full-length album from Geneva's Gym Class Heroes. The followup on The Papercut EP, these 18 songs have built on what was laid down there, but has anything new truly been added?
The answer for the most part is an unfortunate no. Rather than relying on loops and samples, Gym Class Heroes use live instruments for their brand of hip-hop. It would be the assumption of most that this could give the album variety in its 18 songs that wouldn't otherwise be there, but for some reason it doesn't work out quite in its favor. The instrumentation tends to be fresh at first, but it drags on by the middle of the album because most of the guitar and percussion sounds identical to everything previous to it. There are times where the bassist lays down some tight grooves and everything else accents it, but more often than not it tends to just be lost in the background. They appear to be tight musicians, but just don't show all the potential they have on this album. Regardless, the main focus is not on the musicians, but on the MC, Schleprock.
The sly man known as Schelprock handles all the MC duties on The Papercut Chronicles, with only one guest appearance being made by Fall Out Boy founder and bassist Pete Wentz on "Cupid's Chokehold." Schleprock has a cunning, witty sense about him and it translates well into his rhymes. "Taxi Driver" is a veritable who's who in popular underground music today, done in a style that would make any fan of mad libs grin from ear to ear. Everyone from Jimmy Eat World to Scraps And Heart Attacks gets a mention in the twisting storyline. While Schleprock's wit is quite evident, his lack of energy on some tracks really do hurt the flow, as it can give the listener the distinct impression that GCH are doing nothing other than going through the motions. The album, at about an hour, just drags on too long at points, though towards the middle is where you'll find the gem of The Papercut Chronicles: "Faces In The Hall," a story of a young boy facing his own homosexuality while facing scrutiny hatred from those around him;
Something was funny she could tell by his behavior / Or the way he flamboyantly shook his hand when he'd wave to her / She thought nothing of it and just shoved it in the closet / Until the day word dripped out like a leaky faucet / Alberto was homosexual, I ain't got nothing against it / But little Ronny Johnston and all his football player friends did / They always kicked his ass and called him fag and such and such / But they couldn't wait to get to gym so they could really bust him up / The gym teacher never cared, he just joined in on the action / Made silly judgments and compared him to Michael Jackson."It's a really strong track, one that gives the listener something to think about. It almost seems a moot point however, because the only other track that stands out above the others is Schleprock's freestyle, "We Just Freestylin' Part 2." Schlep pulls some pretty crazy references out of nowhere, and it makes for a more interesting listen than a lot of the uninspired tracks found here.
After the extremely promising EP put out in January, this seems to be quite a letdown, considering the aspirations and expectations of lot of people held for it. It's apparently going to take some time before another hip-hop group akin to the Roots can really make a dent in that sort of musical climate. There's no true way to tell just what killed this release - maybe the length, the lack of energy...it's entirely too hard to put a stamp on just why Gym Class Heroes regressed. It's not to say this doesn't make for an interesting listen at points; it's just not the next stone on the path to a strong career for the foursome.