Being credited with greatly influencing the direction of early 00’s pop punk is no small feat, but Fall Out Boy managed to accomplish just that. The band is now on their seventh studio album in their 17 year career, but how will the newest work hold up to the multi-platinum success of the past?
A fairly far cry from the angsty emo-pop that catapulted Fall Out Boy to their immediate fame is opening track is “Young and Menace”. The growly, thrashy guitars have been replaced with loops and samples. Whilst the drum and bass are still fairly textured, it feels sterilised by the computer board. Patrick Stump’s distinctive vocals still manage to stand out when he pushes their range, but they too have suffered at the hands of a production engineer when they’re distorted to a chipmunk standard.
It’s an interesting choice for an opening track, being a little chaotic, though not in the expected emo/punkish way. But will the rest of the album behave in much the same way?
In “Champion”, thankfully we have a welcome change from “Young and Menace”. Whilst not totally free of the grasp of a rogue software engineer, the track returns to Stump feeling like a frontman as opposed to just a mouthpiece. The track may feel more positive than some of their previous, more emo work, but this is no bad thing. The band have come a long way since their opening days where Pete Wentz’ fringe was something to be idolised by his core audience, and pinned him up on their wall. Those fans have now grown up and the band have thankfully matured with that.
It opens sounding like Ed Sheeran’s more ‘alt’ brother decided to cover one of his songs and “HOLD ME TIGHT OR DON’T” carries on exactly like it intends. The track is vocally led, with some distorted guitar subtly underlining Stump’s vocals, which are punctuated by Wentz’ pulsing bassline. The song still retains some notes of DJ Snake-inspired alterations and samples which threaten to derail what is ultimately trying to stay pop-punk, but thankfully, for the most part those samples sit in the side-lines.
The band still have a couple of trump cards to show they’ve retained their pop-punk credentials. In “Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea” and “The Last Of The Real Ones”, the bands dual guitarists reclaim their punkier edge with some driving, albeit simplistic riffs and some truly enthusiastic vocals from Stump. The hidden star of these two tracks is however, the fills from Andy Hurley. Seeing as drummers have always had an issue sticking in this band, it seems they’ve finally found one to fill the gap.
In a further move away from their rawer sound from the past (when the band were truly a four-piece pop punk set), “Church” retains the same power chords and root note bass line and vocals from Stump, but adds in church bells to set the scene along with dramatic choral vocals. Whilst the lyrical theme is still very much Fall Out Boy, the feeling of the song still feels a little overproduced.
The same can be said of “Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)”, however, this track in particular does produce an excellent nod to their previous selves in the form of the line ‘I’ll stop wearing black, when they make a darker colour‘.
The album isn’t without it’s weaker moments, mostly relegated near the rear of the album. Straying way too far from their pop-punk roots is “Heaven’s Gate”, taking too much of a choral, soul route away from standard form, followed quickly by “Sunshine Riptide” ft. Burna Boy. Whilst the song starts well, and Wentz’ bass line suits Burna Boy’s own reggae/dancehall style, the sudden drop into Burna Boy’s verse feels contrived and jarring. As a side note, it’s also a little discomfiting to hear Stump attempting to back up a Nigerian dancehall vocalist with his own Chicago drawl.
Rounding off the album, and also making it feel like the end of a set being played by the band, comes “Bishops Knife Trick”. The track, admittedly, does feel a little overproduced at points with FX-laden bass and guitar with samples and loops woven across the track, but as an ending song, it does supply a sense of drama and finality to the album.
Whilst the band have moved away from their emo/pop-punk roots, changed their dress sense and hair styles, this isn’t a bad thing. This reviewer was happily screaming these songs out at house parties and sporting a fringe to comfortably rival the early Pete Wentz. But times change, and fans and bands alike move onwards and upwards. The band have matured to just the right degree with their fans and have likely retained fans with this work, and picked up a few new ones. It’s solid work overall, and as long as they blast out tracks such as “Thanks Fr Th Mmrs” at live shows, they’ll still remain a guilty pleasure of mine.
Author: Steve, Southgate store