It has been 15 years since Fall Out Boy came out with their debut album Take This to Your Grave. That contained their signature hit “Grand Theft Autumn/Where is Your Boy”. While their contemporaries My Chemical Romance, Good Charlotte and Panic! at the Disco broke apart or fell behind, they came back swinging in 2013 with “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)”. They proved to the world they are indisposable to punk rock and its evolution.
In the first half of 2017, they boldly came out with “Young and Menace”. Not only would I get to witness their first reference to Britney Spears, but it would also be their embrace of EDM. Not a lot of fans and critics took it well and they had to revamp the entire album. It caused a delay in release all the way to 2018. While a lot of the material got scrapped, the first single and the intent to experiment survived.
The album feels like a hodgepodge of random sounds. The criticism that it is incoherent and everything but punk rock seem fair.
In “Church”, you can hear a gospel choir and the church bells joining Patrick Stump’s god-like voice. There is a hint of retro in “The Last of the Real Ones”, reminiscent of the style Capital Cities, and recently Arcade Fire. “Champion” is beaming of inspiration that it might as well be the theme song of the Olympics. And there is a flavor of reggae and R&B in their collaboration with Burna Boy in “Sunshine Riptide”.
But what has not changed are their distinct lyrics that are full of pop culture references and thought provoking questions that stand the test of time. Even today, I wonder, if I’d rather be a widow or divorcee because of “The Take Over, The Break’s Over”.
Some of the songs allude to Alien and Cast Away, which I honestly don’t get. But the words that stick with me are “I’m about to go Tonya Harding on the whole world’s knee” in “Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea” and “I’ll stop wearing black when they make a darker color” in “Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)”.
Besides the Wednesday Addams’ reference, “Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)” is the album’s highlight. This is the band young at heart, emotional, all punk and capable of making the earworms I fell in love with. If releasing this as a single alongside the album couldn’t salvage this effort, nothing else can.
No album of theirs has been this divisive. But they deserve some slack. The band seems unsure of the direction their sound will take. But what I’m certain of is they are definitely attempting to make great music.
I think even they didn’t imagine they’d last this long. But they’ve definitely earned the right to experiment and try out new things. Would we rather they didn’t?
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