KennyHoopla & Travis Barker – ‘SURVIVORS GUILT: THE MIXTAPE//’ review: pop-punk lives!

Executive-produced by the Blink-182 drummer, this 20-minute mixtape is a huge level up for his shapeshifting Wisconsin protégé

Everybody would rather forget the past 18 months, and nostalgia in lockdown – from box sets to music streaming, consumption of golden oldies is on the rise – represents a longing for escapism. This is especially true when it comes to music: having been stuck at home for so long with an empty gig calendar, it makes sense to long for moshpit-filled decades gone by.

It also helps to explain the (mostly exhilarating) revival of early-2000s pop-punk, a suitable soundtrack for unleashing 15 months of pent-up frustration and restless energy in mid-2021.

Enter KennyHoopla: posterboy of the Gen Z alt scene, whose rise signifies a full circle moment. Speaking to NME last year, the Cleveland-born Wisconsin-based artist said of his thrilling take on the genre, which also incorporates indie-rock, trap and emo: “I’m trying to capture the feeling of being in love for the first time… It’s not necessarily me trying to go back, but instead making a new [nostalgia], which is living in the moment.”


His headrush debut EP ‘how will i rest in peace if I’m buried by a highway?’ – which carried Bloc Party’s sense of urgency and made a strong claim for Hoopla being the leader of a new generation – was always destined to be brought to life at sweaty venues worldwide. But now, by teaming up with one of his heroes turned mentors, Blink-182’s prolific Travis Barker, Hoopla’s signature sound is beefed up even more with stadium-sized riffs and rapid-fire drums.

Right from the off, eight-track mixtape ‘SURVIVORS GUILT’ has Barker’s fingerprints all over it, the rollicking riffs and pounding beats of pained opener ‘silence is also an answer’ hitting hard alongside Hoopla’s soul-bearing vocal. Highlights ‘hollywood sucks’, ‘estella’ and ‘turn back time’ practically explode, instantly erupting into massive arena-filling singalong anthems. All three could pass as classics from the not-so-forgotten era.

Elsewhere, reaction to ‘inside of heaven’s mouth, there is a sweet tooth’ will depend on listeners’ dispensation for ear-splitting screamo; it may be too much for more casual fans. On the whole, however, these are crowd-pleasing hits with thought-provoking lyrics.

A non-stop rush of adrenaline that lands ahead of some huge live shows (support tours with Machine Gun Kelly and Yungblud, as well as Reading & Leeds Festival), this brash 20-minute blast is a massive level up for Hoopla, whose growing arsenal of anthems-in-waiting more than justifies his ascendance to the big leagues.



Release date: June 11

Record label: Sony Music

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