• Small Time Crooks haven't been together long but they’ve already released a boatload of material (EPs, mixtapes, etc.). They’ve performed at the Cincinnati Entertainment Awards ceremony and their frenetic live show has helped them build a dedicated following. The band’s new full-length, Revenge of the Underdogs, should do a lot to add to that fanbase.
STC’s Hip Hop/Pop mix is playful, colorful and multidimensional, utilizing vintage-sounding synths and beats, cool samples, uplifting-to-occasionally-silly rhymes and strong vocal hooks. While in concert the band comes across as more of a Rock/Punk/Rap/Pop thing, but on record the strength of the individual pieces becomes more clear.
Underdogs is well produced and accessible, something you would be completely unsurprised to hear on Top 40 radio. That’s in large part due to singer Sarah Davis, who delivers the catchiness with bubbly aplomb (Soupy from Philly Pop Punk band The Wonder Years provides the hook for “Most Days,” which seems destined to be the first Emo Hip Hop smash hit).
But it’s the overall old-school Hip Hop flow that will keep you coming back for more. The well-put-together, poppin’ beats and backdrops and the MCs’ effervescent delivery recall classics by Digital Underground and The Pharcyde, as well as newer acts like The Knux and Cool Kids. The band’s multiracial makeup and upbeat, poppy approach will no doubt earn it comparisons to Gym Class Heroes — which isn’t the worst thing in the world for a band deserved of wider attention — but STC’s Hip Hop side is much stronger than GCH’s more pedestrian appeal.
• Friday is also the release show for I Am the Messenger’s new Humans EP. The band takes a Metal/Hardcore approach and injects it with a steady stream of Pop melodies. But unlike Small Time Crooks the blend often becomes a blur as the melodies get buried beneath the “rrrroar!” vocals.
Still, IATM does have a lot to offer. The Metal chugging is spot-on, the rhythm section is anvil-strong and the airy keyboards add a Faith No More-like atmosphere to the proceedings. The “sung” vocals also have appeal. But sometimes, as the singing bumps right up against the screaming, it sounds as if there are two different tracks by two different bands playing at the same time. Both singers are solid separately, but together they go together like sushi and peanut butter.
The Metal/Hardcore-meets-Pop-Punk attempt is admirable, but I Am The Messenger should spend a little more time in the lab perfecting the hybrid. As it is, it’s awkward and clunky.
(Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.)