19 January 2015

Fall Out Boy - American Beauty/American Psycho

I am not too sure how to approach this review - Fall Out Boy is a strange beast to me for many reasons.  They seem to follow whatever trend is going at any given time, whilst still keeping up the rock side of their sound.  Over the years, they have release some really catchy songs and have build a really loyal audience.  However each time I have seen them live, they sound really poor; each album has always fell short of the mark (for me at least).  When they went on hiatus in 2010, I did think that was it for the band.  But they have come back and their audience has not gone anywhere.  In fact, if anything they seem to have gain more followers than before.  This is due to a more polished pop sheen that has been given to the band's sound, something that they deliberately decided to follow when the band came back together.  Now, pop records can be really good - I have always said I love a well crafted pop song and album; but is it right to follow this dream at the expense of your earlier sound?  Another thing about this album is that it has that dreaded aspect of the modern pop experience which I detest - the multiple producer syndrome.  Too many cooks in the pot can make for a poor experience for me, I really hope that this is not the case here and now it is time to find out what the second phase of the Fall Out Boy experience is all about.

Opening track "Irresistible" sounds huge; I mean it has the catchy hook, massive horns and a sing along chorus that pins the song together.  It is something that has a much to do with rock music as I do with the Victorian renaissance furniture business.  It is really far removed from their original sound and yet is still has that overall tone which was Fall Out Boy to begin with; also, I find myself enjoying this a lot more than I have a lot of their other stuff.  It speaks of ambition and desire to change; this is a good sign for the record to start with.  Next is the Motley Crüe sampling "American Beauty/American Psycho", it has a strange mixture of all the elements of the band from before and their current pop sound.  It is a larger than life number, much like Motley Crüe was back in the 80's.  It has a slight psychedelic riff going on in the background.  It is not as big as "Irresistible", it is obviously more rock due to that Motley Crüe sampling; but it is still just a fun song - nothing more or less.  Following this is the first song that was released as a single of this album, the Suzanne Vega sampling "Centuries".  It samples one of her biggest hits, "Tom's Dinner"; the band has described this as a tip of the hat to what the band wish to reinvest into pop culture.  It is a ballsy move using something as iconic as the centre of a new song, even in a tribute type song.  It has a feeling of their earlier song "This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race", another of their lead singles from the past; albeit with a much more slowed down and groover sound.  It is interesting, but I will be honest it is not the song I would have released first from the album.

With a gentle whistle "The Kids Aren't Alright" washes over the listener, this was one of the first songs that people got if they pre-ordered the album via iTunes.  A slow number which aims for epic and arrives with an average sound if I am honest.  It is the first number to fail to reach the ambition of the band, it starts with slow build, but the introduction of their epic hook chorus just sounds too forced on this number.  Less would have been more here, but alas I have a feeling that this would not have sat well with the band as everything seems to be built toward the euphoric number on this record.  "Uma Thurman" is OTT; it is the most obvious single on the album and uses a sample of the TV show 'The Munsters'.  It is a much better song than "The Kids Aren't Alright" and I can also see how it has been really popular with their audience; for me it is a little too novelty and throwaway, but still an understandable number that does not detract from the album.  "Jet Pack Blues" follows on and once again it is following a similar pattern to "The Kids Aren't Alright"; quiet and thoughtful verses, loud and spectacular chorus, massive production, yida, yada, yoda.  Unlike "The Kids Aren't Alright" this song almost pulls it off, it does not quite make it for me personally but it is a decent number that aims for the stars.  "Novocaine" brings the mood back up, full on pop/rock/disco mixed into a ball of dancing fury.  It is a catchy number, which is perfect for the big hook; not too sure about the lyrical content, but it has a show stopper feel about it.

"Fourth Of July" is the 8th song on the album, this song is so pop that at one point I thought it was Tinie Tempah; it has that massive sound that is a signature of all modern pop, it has that big feel to get the excitement from the crowd and it will work very well in the arena shows that the band will be playing over the summer; however due to the fact it sounds like a lot of other songs out there, the interest level for me is low.  It sound too much like the rest of the crowd to make me feel anything other than slight disappointment here, no matter how slick the production job is on this song.  "Favourite Record" is the first song which goes for the slower pace/big hook mix and gets it just about right.  It does not slow down too much, so that when they go for that anthemic chorus it does not drown the song in sound.  It is a little catchy number that bounces along nicely, not essential by any stretch of the imagination but also not over produced.  "Immortals" is the penultimate number on the album, a song which was inspired by the relationship of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen and it has been described as a horn driven arena rock number.  I cannot find anything truly rock about this, but it does sound like it was made for a pop arena.  If it is aiming for rock, it does not hit the spot; it does hit all the right pop sections that seem to be the band's aim on this record.  Ending the album is "Twin Skeleton's (Hotel In NYC)" which once again goes for that huge chorus mix with an anthemic tune.  It is a good number, does what it sets out to do; but after a previous twelve numbers all trying to do the same in one degree or another, it just does not hold weight.

I think that the band have aimed for a truly anthemic album here, every song is aiming for the crowd and for that moment where thousands of people sing out in unison and have the same agenda; every track aims for the stars and maybe on an individual level it might make it.  But as a collection of songs on an album, it aims that bit too high; if a few of the numbers had have been stripped back it would have improved this album.  Less can be more, not every song has to make the audience have shivers down their spines with that massive sound.  Some of these numbers are ruined by the fact that they are trying to make each song sound louder than a bomb.  However, it does not make this a bad album; it just makes it a missed opportunity for me.  I do think that this band will one day make an album that conquers the world, they have the ambition.  What they need now is to know when to make a song subtle and when it needs to be massive.  It is good, but it does loose a few marks by trying to make everything huge.

7 out of ten - This is good and well worth a check

Top track -

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