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").
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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.