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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

As Cruel as School Children

Gym Class Heroes’ album As Cruel as School Children features the combination of smart, funny lyrics, catchy beats, and a charming lead performer. The band obviously takes a few cues from Outkast, but there’s something even more…playful and young about these guys and their album.

The first track, “The Queen and I,” is underlain by a funky Spanish guitar and Travis McCoy sarcastically railing against his woman’s drinking habits. There are recurring themes, as is expected from men who’ve newly found fame, of hook-ups, partying, and keeping one’s integrity (although none of those things is ever mentioned simultaneously in the same song). “New Friend Request” is one of the only songs I’m aware of that boasts a “MySpace” reference. Love in the digital age has never sounded so clever (“On the scale from 1 to awesome, I’m the shit)…or realistic. (He sends the lady he’s wooing a dozen digital roses and admits to checking his inbox 10 times a day.) “Clothes Off!” insists that we have to take our clothes off and have to party all night to have a good time. No questions about it. The charm oozing out of McCoy rivals Justin Timberlake, and the lyrics are hilarious in their overtness: “The way you stole my attention was flat out burgulary/What do you say let's exit stage left so me and you can/Possibly reconvene and play some naked peekaboo.”

Interspersed among all the attempts to hook up on the album are three “Sloppy Love Jingles,” all of which are brilliant in their absolute shamelessness. McCoy here is earnest but playful, not taking himself seriously, but seriously charming: “To me she equaled MC squared and everything else was mathematics/I never took the time to practice.” He chronicles one more attempted hookup, this one incredibly drunken and ending in an unsatisfying, forgettable sexual liaison: “With a smile I grabbed the note, lit a smoke and sat back,/"Dear whoever, lose my number. P.S. the sex was whack.”

The bottom line of these songs is that the productions are simple. The choruses are unexpected because, in contrast to the hiphopiness of the verses, they are usually pop-rock. “Clothes Off!” and “7 Weeks” even feature identifiable electric guitar riffs. Still, it is precisely this simplicity that makes it hard to decipher one track from the next.

The highlight of the album is their first single, “Cupid’s Chokehold.” Its unbelievably infectious chorus, featuring Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy, consists of the intricate refrain, “Ba ba da da” and McCoy, again, sings about trying to find the right girl. His definitions of love range from her giving him Alka-Seltzer when his tummy aches and her having her own ring tone. It’s precisely this combination of silly immaturity that wins me over and makes me keep listening.

Plus, McCoy is totally hot.

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