I’m sure you were as excited as we were to find out that Fall Out Boy were unleashing another collection of songs through the musical airwaves this year. Okay, maybe that isn’t a very large amount of excitement, but I think you get the point. Everyone’s favourite MySpace alumni are currently streaming their fifth studio album American Beauty/American Psycho. Read on for an album review.
The album opens with a lone brass melody on Irresistible, which demonstrates the first hip hop influences on the record. The brass accompanies Patrick Stump’s voice as Joe Trohman’s low guitar chugs underpin the pair. A heavily autotuned radio FM chorus of “I love the way you hurt me baby” bridges the gap between bog-standard verses and a lack of progression as Irresistible doesn’t alter course much for the rest of its 3:27 running time. Title track American Beauty/American Psycho is rather more upbeat than its predecessor, with a catchy bass wobble (disguised as a guitar) preceding a danceable verse and more autotuned vocals. Pete Wentz’s bass is more prominent in this song, one of few to incorporate some multiple vocal harmonies. Despite all its generic clichés, American Beauty/American Psycho is a rather catchy song, and it’s followed by lead single Centuries. Centuries was the UK’s best-selling rock song of 2014, opening with a catchy vocal hook which is repeated throughout, before an atmospheric pre-verse breakdown enters the frame. Hip hop flecked verses and falsetto tendencies are scattered throughout the song as we realize that the Fall Out Boy of today just aren’t the Fall Out Boy every scene kid grew up with all those years ago. The whistled intro of The Kids Aren’t Alright precedes a downbeat verse which is punctuated by Wentz’s bassline and a standard drum beat from Andy Hurley. This one’s a lighters-in-the-air sing-a-long which will surely get many a festival field lit up throughout the course of the world tour set to accompany this record. It’s slightly too long for our liking, especially considering that the song doesn’t go anywhere awfully special. The more exciting Uma Thurman follows, encompassing a sampled riff from The Munsters theme song. It’s one of the better melodies on the album and it certainly helps the track stand out alongside Stumps’ more emotionally intense vocal tone, something which is often overlooked on the album in favour of autotuned vocals.
Jet Pack Blues briefly goes down the Nickelback-ballad route, especially as its vocal line slightly resembles the melody from Nickelback’s Rockstar. As with The Kids Aren’t Alright, Jet Pack Blues is another ballad yet with a bit more oomph to it. Novocaine is one of the rockier tracks on the album, with low droning bass and guitars accompanying a classic Fall Out Boy chorus. This is definitely one of the better tracks on the record, showing us that Patrick Stump and co. still have it. Fourth of July welcomes brass back into the frame as a clock ticks in the background alongside some ambient synths and vocal samples. It all sounds like it could go in a nice direction, and then the song itself kicks in to once again open the door to generic hip hop-meets-rock formulas. Although Fall Out Boy have always been predictable, there was once a time where their predictability was less prominent and they managed to stand out. It’s a shame, as the songs on this record do still have the potential to outshine the ones on 2013’s Save Rock and Roll. Ironically, Fall Out Boy have gone on to subsequently kill the genre with one of the most anti-Rock albums we’ve heard in a while. Favourite Record features a catchy guitar riff as Stump reminisces about the past in the way he always does so well when he needs to evoke some emotion. The robotic voices slightly ruin the song, but for the most part it’s quite a coherent and exciting track as it climaxes with a Killers-esque chant in the chorus. Penultimate track Immortals, which featured in the Disney film Big Hero 6, goes down the oriental route as we realize that Fall Out Boy have run out of ideas by choosing to include an old soundtrack cut-off on the album. “We could be immortals” sings Stump, with his voice picking up intensity halfway through before a silly robotic vocal effect ruins the moment. Twin Skeleton’s (Hotel in NYC) ends the album on an upbeat note as a Jay Z-esque guitar riff carries the song through to its end. It’s one of the more interesting songs on the album, with demure chants and wails towards the end proving to be quite hypnotic. It’s a positive ending to an otherwise average album.
Fall Out Boy have always been a love/hate kind of band, with American Beauty/American Psycho possibly being the first album which will actually cause this divide within their own fanbase as fans start to grow away from the severe hip hop influences of late. It’s not a terrible album, it just hasn’t impressed as much as 2013’s Save Rock and Roll. There aren’t any songs on here as exciting as The Phoenix, as beautifully structured as Save Rock and Roll or as grooving as Where Did the Party Go. Where did Fall Out Boy go?