The Cool Kids
When Fish Ride Bicycles

Years after the white-hot hype turned to lukewarm interest, the first official album from Chicago nerd rappers the Cool Kids arrives not with a bang but with a shrug.

It’s not the Kids’ fault that the oft-delayed “When Fish Ride Bicycles” languished in record label jail, or that acts such as Odd Future have stolen their hipster rap mojo.  They’re as good — and pretty much the same — as they ever were, dogged revivalists repackaging beloved 1980s rap tropes into smart, excessively gentle joints that sound only as new as they need to.

The Kids (Mikey Rocks and Chuck Inglish, who haven’t been kids for years) end “Fish” with a summer jam called (what else?) “Summer Jam,” a sepia-toned slow-burner that, it’s easy to imagine, might blast from front stoops in some Spike Lee movie about Bed-Stuy in the ’80s.

Mellow by nature, the Kids play it cool, spending most of the disc trying not to sound like they’re trying too hard. Sometimes this comes off as chill (as on the effortlessly great, Bun B-guesting “Gas Station”), other times as merely enervated.

Rocks and Inglish perk up considerably in the presence of the disc’s many guest stars: Drummer Travis Barker enlivens “Sour Apples”; Asher Roth and Chip tha Ripper make “Roll Call” sound positively snappy; and by the time Ghostface Killah guests on “Penny Hardaway,” the Kids can barely contain themselves,  though he doesn’t do much more than show up.

The Cool Kids’ “When Fish Ride Bicycles” languished in record label jail. (Courtesy of Green Label Sound)

Allison Stewart

Recommended Tracks

“Penny Hardaway,” “Gas Station,” “Swimsuits”