Fall Out Boy

American Beauty/American Psycho

Written by: TL on 22/01/2015 20:38:01

Arguably the largest of the currently active bands from the Myspace wave, pop-rock phenomenon Fall Out Boy is a band that has never once hesitated to push their own expression. With each new album, they've lost fans that weren't interested in the new directions, and with each they've gained tonnes more, as their unusual gifts for excellent melodies and striking lyrics were exposed to larger and larger audiences. Even when presumed finished during the hiatus that followed 2008's fifth album "Folie A Deux", the band eventually came back swinging. Lyricist and bassist Pete Wentz had new demons to exorcise following his split with Ashley Simpson, and rejoining with singer/guitarist Patrick Stump after Stump's efforts as a solo pop act, the band came together on "Save Rock & Roll" with a new mission to bridge the gap between rock and pop.

The result was divisive yet successful, and the band has since busily toured in support of "Save Rock & Roll", and when the just released "American Beauty/American Psycho" arrives so soon after, it comes as no surprise that the quartet has explained in interviews that they've been writing the record on the road for the first time in their career. As an isolated fact, fair enough, but then they've also said that the decision to make the album was made largely due to the success of the individually released single "Centuries". Ok, sounds a bit like commercial interest is rushing things here, but who knows for certain? Yet then they've also recently been defending the use of samples - you know, recycled hooks that pop and hip-hop artists tend to borrow from other artists when they're short on actual inspiration. Put those things together, and it starts to smell a bit like Fall Out Boy might not have been as inspired as usual in the creation of "American Beauty/American Psycho", which would explain why - after twelve years and five solid albums - the band has now put on a record where more than half the songs are either quickly forgettable or flat-out annoying to listen to.

As is typical for a commercial release, the tracks on the last third of the album, specifically from seven to nine, are not worth your time. "Novocaine" is nothing but mediocre beat, chorus, sampled man-choir and production glitter, surrounding an only modestly interesting pre-chorus. "Fourth Of July" sounds like a Katy Perry ballad, with the kind of melody any one-hit top 40 pop-artist could have had written for them, and you sense that the band's interest in production has tilted over from supporting good instrumental ideas, to acting as poor substitutes in the absence of such. "Favourite Records" more than anything is a good example of how Stump is trying way too hard in his verses, and despite his ever improving versatility as a singer, the record sees his voice consistently pushed up into a shrill, hysterical place that isn't particularly pleasant or relatable to listen to. It feels fitting to say he sounds like a cartoon theme song, which is indeed what "Immortals" is, having been created with the Big Hero 6 soundtrack in mind.

Speaking of "Immortals", it's an example of how the better songs on the album are at least catchy, but only in the way that puts the melody in your head, yet doesn't really make you feel anything. The same can be said about the other single, "Centuries", which is good for a sports-event-rock type of song - it's just that such a type of song would have felt irrelevant for a band like Fall Out Boy to write in the past. As for the sampled vocalizing from Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner", it's completely unnecessary and only cheapens an otherwise alright song - a feeling that continues in "Uma Thurman", which just feels like it's trying to score cheap points by making a "Pulp Fiction" reference for the sake of doing so. And then there's the title track, which is a strong candidate for the most annoying track released in 2015. The tempo is loopy, the percussion grates on the ear and imagining actually singing along to the clowny "whoa-oh" hook should indeed have you calling for someone to come and put you in a straight-jacket as soon as possible.

The most promise to be found on "American Beauty/American Psycho" comes in opener "Irresistible" and in centrepiece "Jet Pack Blues", both of which have verses that actually sound worthy of the band's legacy. The latter in particular finds Stump back at his Elvis Costello-inspired foundation, and showcases perhaps the most ear-catching lyrical hook in form of the pre-chorus "Waiting for me outside, she's singing baby come home, in a melody of tears, while the rhythm of the rain keeps time". Regrettably, both songs are let down by further dime-a-dozen, over-simplified choruses, the type of which plague the album with the absence of the anxiety and eloquence that has otherwise given soul to the band's songs until now. It is only symptomatic however, of a record that feels stitched together and given the industry-polish, leaving the few potent and catchy parts scattered about, surrounded by hollow filler sounds. Not that we don't see this all the time from bands that try to both tour heavily and follow up quickly after a successful album, but considering Fall Out Boy's streak of albums prior to this one, you would have thought such trifles had been beneath them.

6

Download: Jet Pack Blues, Centuries, Irresistible
For The Fans Of: Panic! At The Disco, Marianas Trench, Fun.
Listen: facebook.com/falloutboy

Release date 20.01.2015
Island / Decaydance

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