To a specific generation, Fall Out Boy are a rather special band, epitomising a time and an emotional connection of years past. The early days of Take This To Your Grave spawned an army of young pop-punk lovers. ‘Sugar We’re Going Down’ played a major role in pop-punk making its way back to the radar of the mainstream again. And Pete, Patrick, Joe and Andy were responsible for around 80% of angsty-lyric-filled MSN names in 2004.
In context, this review comes from a long-time Fall Out Boy fan, who found a lot of enjoyment for the more poppy sounds of Save Rock and Roll and American Beauty, American Psycho. Things change, bands develop their sound, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But it isn’t the shift in genre that’s the real problem with Mania. It’s the fact that the majority of it’s just…not very good.
Months after its release, the chorus of ‘Young and Menace’ is still a baffling assault on the ears that creeps up on you after an actually quite listenable and right-side-of-experimental lead-up. Actually, without the chorus, this one might actually be alright, kinda.
Singles ‘Champion’ and ‘The Last of The Real Ones’ show that when the boys get dancey pop-rock right, they really get it right. Upbeat earworm choruses that kick into action, the former sounds like it could quite easily be on the soundtrack of a modern-day Rocky. ‘Stay Frosty Milk Tea’ sort of gives underused lead guitarist Joe Trohman something to do in the form of a few enjoyably jarring guitar twangs, which is a blessing in disguise, as the majority of the album is a bit of a head-scratch at what he’s actually up to these days.
With a chorus hook of “I’ll stop wearing black when they make a darker colour” ‘Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)’ is a slight stroke of genius, likely from the songwriting chops of Mr. Wentz, who has a history of churning out the perfect emo lyrics to post on your Myspace profile in the 2000s. One of the better tracks on the album, this is the kind of track a modern day, pop-infused Fall Out Boy SHOULD be producing.
Unfortunately, from a slightly promising start post-‘Young and Menace’, the latter half of the album just sort of…limps to the finish line. Although Patrick Stump’s voice is on decent form, demonstrating his range and ability, much of the emotion and soul that defined his vocal as a standout within the pop-punk genre seems to have vanished.
‘Heaven’s Gate’ sounds like an attempt to channel some weird Elton John vibes, except not the awesome Elton cameo from Save Rock And Roll’s titular track, but Elton after having just woken up from a nap on a really, really dull day. The vocals and instrumental blend into a bland three-minutes-something of drivel which even some toned-down guitars and drums towards the end can’t fix.
The purpose of Burna Boy’s blink-and-you’ll miss it cameo (no, we’ve never heard of him either) in “we’re having a really boring summer” track ‘Sunshine Riptide’ isn’t really clear, other than to showcase FOB’s ‘edgy’ move towards the hip-hop world.
The problem with Fall Out Boy’s latter material isn’t a genre change. As recently demonstrated by former Fueled By Ramen contemporaries Paramore, and even a fair few of FOB’s offerings on previous release American Beauty, American Psycho, a move towards a new sound doesn’t have to mean a decrease in output quality.
The problem with the majority of Mania isn’t the move in genre – it’s that the majority of the tracks are bland and uninspiring. And from a band that inspired a generation, that’s the biggest disappointment here.