Fall Out Boy
American Beauty / American Psycho Review
Released January 16, 2015
Genre: Pop Punk
Viewer Discretion Advised: To anyone who didn’t begin listening to Fall Out Boy until the release of Save Rock And Roll, this review isn’t for you. This review is for those who appreciate the pre-breakup, un-bastardized Fall Out Boy. After this, there’s no turning back…
If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Oh, I’m sorry Drake, Fall Out Boy isn’t a rap group? Well, then I would like for someone to explain to me why they are co-headling with Wiz Khalifa on the “Boys of Zummer” Tour (which is the most flaccid AND cringe-worthiest name ever). The duo plan on defiling 41 venues in three-month-long cross-country tour. If you would like to buy tickets so you can stand outside and protest, click here.
Back to the main point, Fall Out Boy isn’t a rap group or a single rapper (I guess the name could be misleading). The quartet, currently consisting of Patrick Stump (lead vocalist/pianist/guitarist), Pete Wentz (bassist), Joe Trohman (guitarist), and Andy Hurley (drummer), hails from Wilmette, Illinois, where the original members were influenced by the hardcore punk scene in the late 90s and the sudden rise of emo/pop punk in the early 2000s.
The band released four studio LPs—Take This to Your Grave (2003), From Under the Cork Tree (2005), Infinity on High (2007), and Folie à Deux (2009)—before taking a three year hiatus, during which a few of the members worked on other musical projects. Perhaps, it would have been best to have stayed that way, but instead the four joined forces again in late 2012, releasing their fifth LP Save Rock and Roll in early 2013.
I must admit it wasn’t a complete bust…there were a few good tracks on that album. Following this, the band released PAX AM Days (2013), a hardcore punk EP recorded in a few days at the PAX AM Studios in Los Angeles, a noisy tribute to their past selves that was seemingly made merely to contradict their new pop punk identity and misleadingly hint at a more roots-centric direction. With these two contrasting styles now at their disposal, I was hoping severely that their next LP would be a tasteful mixture of both pop punk and hardcore, like Panic! At The Disco’s Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! (2013), but that wasn’t going to cut it for Fall Out Boy.
Thus, enter American Beauty / American Psycho, and let’s just say, this record is a little more “Psycho” than “Beauty”.
The album opens with “Irresistible” a.k.a. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Can’t Hold Us”, featuring a predominant horn melody gladly disguising the sadistic plea, “I love the way you hurt me baby, it’s irresistible,” as something a little less infernal. If the words were different, the hook of that song actually wouldn’t be that bad, considering the way Stump tenderly pours the words out of himself and they linger on the air for a second. Unfortunately, there’s this, which completely obliterates any chance of me liking this song. The second song is the title track of the album, “American Beauty / American Psycho”. I don’t know if their intention was to make a nursery rhyme, but the rhythm of the verses closely resembles that of “The Hokey Pokey”, a rather hokey feat if you ask me:
Here’s a quick quiz. It’s called, Guess the Artist. I’ll say two lines, and you have to guess which one is by Fall Out Boy!
A) You put your right hand in, you put right hand out, you put your right hand in, and you shake it all about.
B) You take the full, full truth, then you pour some out, you take the full, full truth, then you pour some out.
If you guessed A, you were wrong surprisingly. Either way, this song just screams, “I’m an American idiot.” Next comes everyone’s favorite dick ride, “Centuries”, which to me doesn’t present anything unique or original. I won’t say anything more about this one other than that it contains the sacreligious line: “Heavy metal broke my heart”, which is quite contradictory since they owe much of their roots to heavy metal. “The Kids Aren’t Alright” begins with a burnt-out whistle tune, followed by a rather boring verse, but then salvaged by a decent chorus (that I can’t help but think I’ve heard before…which is the case for most of everything on this album. It’s very commercially oriented). The Offspring trumps Fall Out Boy in songs titled “The Kids Aren’t Alright”.
“Uma Thurman” is a cool tribute to the beautiful actress, alluding to such great film moments as the dance scene in the 1994 Tarantino film Pulp Fiction. The song also samples the theme song of The Munsters. This is the first song on the album to actually bear a hint of the Fall Out Boy sound, but only because it sounds like a rehashing of something off of Save Rock and Roll.
Despite that debilitating stigma of the album, “Jet Pack Blues” actually contains that genuine Fall Out Boy composition, with the subtle use of literary devices and Stump’s melodic choruses casually laid over gang vocals. This breath of fresh of air is immediately smothered by the fumes of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”, or at least a discount version, called “Novocaine”, featuring an awfully repetitive melody and annoyingly noisy production…to be avoided.
So I’ve already talked about seven of the tracks on the album, and most of them are just commercially devolved tracks from Save Rock and Roll. The next two are actually great steps forward in what Fall Out Boy should be aiming to sound like, although they could use more natural sound (this entire album could have just been Patrick Stump and a Macbook). “Fourth of July” showcases their experimentation with ambient synth pop (it’s very The 1975-esque) and utilization of their classic hook/verse/pre-chorus/hit architecture. Equally refreshing, “Favorite Record” emphasizes guitar-driven, synth rock (similar to The Killers), a pleasant response to their song “Dead On Arrival” from Take This to Your Grave (2003): “Spin for you like your favorite records used to,” alluding to, “This is side one, flip me over, I know I’m not your favorite record.”
Unfortunately, this invigorating shift in the style of the album is ruined again, the last two tracks eradicating the likability of any part of this album. Originally a single for the soundtrack of the animated motion picture Big Hero 6 (why couldn’t it have stayed that way?), “Immortals” is three minutes of Patrick Stump doing vocal exercises over some discount Indian recorder-solo and the instrumental version of “Centuries”. The final track of the album, “Twin Skeleton’s (Hotel In NYC)”, closes with a bang. And I mean the kind of bang that derails the train that is American Beauty / American Psycho. In this finale, Fall Out Boy makes sure to reprise every part of this album at least once with double the effects. Needless to say, the song leaves a lasting impression of all of the worst parts of the album.
I once considered tweeting at Fall Out Boy, “I’m glad I’ve finished reviewing @FallOutBoy’s new album so now I can delete it.” I might still. I must say, American Beauty / American Psycho had potential at some points, but overall, fell miles short of reaching that mark, despite its cohesive sound across the album. It has no particularly unique melodies or catchy hooks, and definitely should not have been credited as a Fall Out Boy album (at most, a two-part with Patrick Stump and Andy Hurley). I just hope that, like Coldplay’s Ghost Stories (2014), this album was purely experimental, and that Fall Out Boy will return to making better music in the future. Hope for the best, but expect the worst. If this album shows anything, it’s that Fall Out Boy has no solid plan for the future. And for a band, that’s psycho in its own right.
After listening to the album, I made an artistic reinterpretation of the album art.
FAV TRACKS: Jet Pack Blues, Fourth of July, Favorite Record
LEAST FAV TRACKS: American Beauty / American Psycho, Centuries, Novocaine, Immortals, Twin Skeleton’s (Hotel In NYC)