Slightly Stoopid - Chronchitis (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Slightly Stoopid

Chronchitis (2007)

Stoopid / Controlled Substance

What on earth happened to Slightly Stoopid? Even their disordered stylistic evolution should not have led to this. Starting out playing immature Operation Ivy-influenced ska-punk on their self-titled debut, the band went on to craft one of the best California reggae/punk albums of the last decade in 1999's The Longest Barrel Ride. Springboarding off the moderate success of TLBR and constant touring found Slightly Stoopid with a larger budget, and the polished surf-reggae of Everything You Need emerged, tainted only by a glut of goofy white hip-hop attempts. Acoustic Roots: Live and Direct ensued with a smooth but tepid product, followed by 2005's Closer to the Sun, a spread of catchy reggae dub with sprinkles of punk and blues. But now there's this. This is Chronchitis. This is background music.

It's hard to fault Slightly Stoopid for making it a priority to keep evolving. Bands that remain stagnant creatively often leave a sour taste when their albums become predictable and uninspired, a symptom that seems to hit punk the hardest. In that dimension, Slightly Stoopid has succeeded in managing to keep stretching stylistic boundaries without losing too many fans along the way. However, with Chronchitis, the band is unable to match the quality of their previous work, and is in turn left with a 17-song dud.

"Anywhere I Go" gently opens Chronchitis with monotone melodies and an elevator full of ennui. More flat acoustics á la Jack Johnson follow in "The Otherside" with a peculiar hip-hop guest spot from Guru of NYC duo Gang Starr and synths by Money Mark of Beastie Boys fame. The song as a whole isn't particularly engaging, though Guru's lyrical contributions do help substantially: "War and poverty, violence and hate are all connected / But you ain't tryin' to relate / One man's pleasure could be the next man's sorrow / There's no such thing as loyalty, no good examples to follow / All we're hearing is ****, time to fix the distortion / Nothin' but death and disease in epidemic proportions / The order of the day is hate and greed / Time to take the lead, supply the basic needs / Deal with it or you could deny it / From the worst comes the best / From the lowest comes the highest." "Hold on to the One" is nothing but acoustic pop-rock that even goes so far as to bite a measure from Des'ree's mid-`90s hit "You Gotta Be." Finally, some of Slightly Stoopid's trademark two-chord reggae with dripping electric guitar effects appears in "Nobody Knows" along with the album's first memorable chorus, and the digitized dub of "Above the Clouds" follows, with a somewhat flat tone, but interesting horn and synth work.

The best music on the album comes from the surf & blues "Ocean," which unfortunately doesn't feature much more than a chorus lyrically. "Jimi" boasts some fine acoustic fingerplay, but is more of a jam than a song, while "Breakbeat" is essentially filler. "Girl U So Fine" takes up nearly six minutes, but doesn't do much until about the five-minute mark when guest vocalist Toko Tasi toasts soothingly above the acoustic guitars. "Reward for Me" rounds out the album in exceedingly banal fashion like most recent Stoopid records, unplugged and inert.

In the 17 songs on Chronchitis, only the soothing electric reggae dub of "Ever Really Wanted" comes close to matching what Slightly Stoopid fans would expect. It seems like the band spent far too much time going for a "mellow mood" (pardon the pun, punk) than crafting catchy and memorable songs. I hate to say it in such harsh fashion, but I truly regret wasting my money on Chronchitis. Slightly Stoopid can do much better.