Fall Out Boy - M A N I A (Review)

Martin_Canine
FALL OUT BOY
M A N I A
★★★★1/2

As always when an established group changes their musical direction, the music world is divided at Fall Out Boy’s new album. AllMusic (who previously praised the group) harshly criticizes the electronic elements of the album as a sign of the revolutionary band getting older, laut.de (who previously panned their music) complimented the many different facets of the compositions. There are fans who hate it and haters who like it, and somewhere in between people whose opinion on the group didn’t change for the better or worse. Fact is, it’s polarizing. But why exactly this album? Did they trade their genuine emotive rock sound in favor of unimaginative recreations of radio pop, like so many bands before - and if so, did this happen suddenly or gradually? Actually, I don’t think they did at all. I mean, if the incredibly strong voice of Patrick Stump (at its peak, the vocals sound like a male Anastacia) and anthemic guitar and drum patterns on the album’s opener, Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea, don’t rock, I don’t know what does. “Seems like the whole damn world went and lost its mind / And all my childhood heroes have fallen off or died”. Fall Out Boy didn’t with this album. In fact, it’s better than their previous three efforts, its only true competition in the band’s discography being 2007’s Infinity on High, a record that contained everything the emo movement had to offer at the highest possible musical and lyrical level. Now, M A N I A does pretty much the same for 2010s genre bending rock.

Firstly, let me congratulate Fall Out Boy on their first top ten album in Germany, and while their single songs are still far from having caught mainstream attention, they are on their way, and who knows, maybe one day they’ll knock Sunrise Avenue off the alternative rock throne - who have underwent a much bigger switch and almost went full pop in 2017, still managing to top the charts. To me, the change in Fall Out Boy’s style isn’t even that dramatic. They were similarly adventurous on Save Rock and Roll and American Beauty / American Psycho, just that this time the poppier, more electronic elements are a touch more in the foreground. Actually, the evolution started with the strings on Thnks Fr Th Mmrs and the stomping beat of This Ain’t a Scene, It’s An Arms Race, just that back then the direction was in full emo mode. I wouldn’t even say it’s the other way around now, as there is still plenty of their original characteristics in there, but also interpolating many different elements from all over the modern and nostalgic music world. Their mojo is still as strong, else powerful jams like The Last of the Real Ones or Church wouldn’t sound as electrifying. Don’t let the piano on the first and the choir on the latter fool you: this is Fall Out Boy as they used to be, with massive energetic melodies and lyrics that contain the true youthful spirit of emo. Plus: have I mentioned what extremely soulful vocal performances Patrick Stump gives? I can’t remember having heard such a level of sass and feeling from a white male singer in this century.

What I want to say is: you won’t miss anything that made Fall Out Boy in the first place. But apart from that, there’s so much new to explore: The chorus in Young and Menace drops harder than anything Skrillex and Diplo released in the last years. Even the dude from Where the Wild Things Are and the llama fursuiter who escaped Pittsburgh that are all over the videos and the artwork don’t even come across as crazy as this chorus. But the weird thing is… as dubstep-ish as it may appear at first… it’s entirely punk. It’s tension and rage building up and unleashing in a thunderous collage of screams, percussion, rewinding sound effects, trap hi-hats, shredded guitars and, well, pitched vocals repeating "Young and a menace!”. This is just some visceral Scheiße.
And Heaven’s Gate, starting off with a very welcome vintage sound reminiscent of 50s pop ballads, a trend we heard on two great songs by Beyoncé and Rihanna (Superpower and Love on the Brain), soon turns the rock up and merges into a 70s style piece of glam ballad. And for those who just need a power pop anthem that makes you feel like an underdog boxer punching his way to the top: try Champion. And it rocks harder than anything they delivered in this decade so far.

Every movement in rock music has their ultimate heroes. At this point, it’s pretty clear that My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy will be the two bands that will be remembered as the greatest of the emo era. But unlike MCR, Fall Out Boy are still around, relevant and actively working on their legacy. Are they doing justice to their instant classics? You can bet on that.
If this is the sound of the rebellious youth and young adults in the late 2010s, heck, where do I sign up?

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