No one can accuse Scary Kids Scaring Kids of lacking ambition. The suburban Phoenix sextet's self-titled second album is an epic song cycle characterized by opening anthem "Degenerates," which — judging from all the clicks of pistol safeties and ominous helicopter hovering — casts us into a jackbooted future. The song sets up an album-long theme of conformity versus individuality, during which they go a little heavy on the drama ("Taking a life's worth of cigarette burns, this is our fight for freedom").
But cable-movie-level melodrama aside, SK2 has created a compelling album with texture and dynamics. They straddle the splintering factions of emo and create some of their own, segueing from punchy punk-pop ("Faces"), to proggy breakdowns and arpeggios ("A Pistol to My Temple"), to atmospheric modern rock ("Set Sail") to enjoyably anachronistic glam-flecked metal ("Snake Devil").
Fortunately, from the production to the playing, everything's executed and put together so well that it sounds like an album instead of a genre-hopping clusterfuck. Granted, it would be stronger if they dialed back the overheated rhetoric and 86ed piano-ballad treacle like "Watch Me Bleed," but there's so much heart and creativity at play you'll forgive those smaller sins.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.