Photo Credit: Alondra Buccio
The current release by Cleveland, Ohio musician Kenny La’ron, who goes by the stage name KennyHoopla (yes, one word) is fraught with more than its share of baggage. The six-song offering is being presented as a “mixtape,” although it’s a bit unclear just how that label applies. The full title is SURVIVORS GUILT: THE MIXTAPE//, and every song title ends with those same two slash marks (“turn back time//”, “smoke break//” etc.). All of this for a fun but relatively routine collection of pop-punk tracks.
The one add-on, however, that no one would argue as being superfluous is the fact that sharing equal billing on the release is Travis Barker, who’s of course the longtime drummer for Blink-182 but whom Rolling Stone also recently called the “cross-generational pop-punk ambassador,” having mentored in some way young artists from a variety of musical sub-genres. Thus, Barker’s name alone automatically props this one up. But just how much does it need it?
Well, let’s see… Opening cut “silence is also an answer//” (good title) is probably a bit more new wave than punk, with KennyHoopla belting out the vocals as the lyrics offer an oddly-placed but somehow comforting pop culture reference (“She’s a white dress and I’m Ferris Bueller”) in this song which seems to be endorsing pacifism as a general concept (“Just get some rest // You can’t abolish all the hatred in your chest… // It’s best to be a fly on the wall”).
The lyrics of “estella//” seem on some levels to be just as – if not more – defeatist, as a would-be classic unrequited love song (“I love you too much // I hate myself enough for the both of us”). But the song is a solid, tight rocker, even if musically it’s also nothing we haven’t heard before. Speaking of which, “turn back time//” boasts a synth riff that is faintly reminiscent of Toto’s 1978 classic “Hold the Line”, but ultimately transcends its clichéd title (and overall theme) by being equally tight, catchy and to-the-point.
KennyHoopla certainly can’t be accused of appropriating a done-to-death title on the track (are you ready?) “inside of heaven’s mouth, there is a sweet tooth//.” KennyHoopla screams the chorus, which quickly descends into incomprehensibility, which suggests that on some level the whole thing was intended to be satirical (or at least in the you-figure-it-out vein of classic musical mindf-ers like Frank Zappa). This certainly applies to the last ten seconds of the song, which give way to an as-of-that-point unheard guitar riff (which seems to be saying: “Hey, wait for me! I want to be here too!”).
“hollywood sucks//” sounds more like a song that one would expect from this genre, but actually opens with more of a speed metal riff. Other than that, it’s a very fun song about how Hollywood kids are brats, being sung from the perspective of another kid who’s being, well, bratty about that. Then, on closer “9-5 (love me)//” KennyHoopla sings intentionally off key, and the song does a sort of soft-then-hard approach which echoes Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike.” A bit too much of SURVIVORS GUILT: THE MIXTAPE// is indeed far too similar to so much of the other pop-punk and emo acts that are already out there. But KennyHoopla is also obviously both sincere and ambitious in his musical pursuits, so it’s really just a question of originality catching up with that. He may well survive, career-wise, at which point guilt should not be necessary.