If nothing else, American Beauty / American Psycho proves that Fall Out Boy are in it for the long haul. The customary comeback album was released over eighteen months ago in the form of 2013’s Save Rock And Roll, followed by the ever-popular world tour and festival slots. But the fact that they’ve gotten round to making a second album after re-thrusting themselves back into the public eye – something a large percentage of bands never get round to – solidifies the fact that they’re ready for life as a band again. Whether that band is Fall Out Boy, though, is a different matter entirely.
On Save Rock And Roll, the band’s traditional pop-punk sound was bolstered with an altogether more synthetic, electronic backbone, seeing them branch out from their influences into unexplored territory. On American Beauty / American Psycho though, pretty much all ties to their origins have been severed completely. The Save Rock And Roll template has been mixed with more elements of pop, electronica and the mainstream’s more novel facets for some of the most histrionic-stuffed, left of centre pop music that’s likely to rear its head this year.
At its best, American Beauty / American Psycho contains some of Fall Out Boy’s finest moments since they ended their hiatus two years ago. Irresistible kicks off with a brassy hook that is exactly as the title suggests, while Centuries is the perfect distillation of everything this current incarnation of the band has made its own, namely a typically huge chorus over dense, heavy hip-hop beats and an esoteric sample of Suzanne Vega’s Tom’s Diner. Elsewhere, the tribal electro-pop of Immortals is expansive and anthemic enough to earn its place on the soundtrack to Disney’s Big Hero 6, and the hormonal, sass-stuffed Uma Thurman is a definite highlight.
As is to be expected with such a drastic overhaul in sound, there are definitely moments on the album where it doesn’t seem like the transition from scrappy Chicago punks to international pop stars would be such a smooth one. The likes of Favorite Record and The Kids Aren’t Alright fail to muster up either the sweeping melodrama of Jet Pack Blues or the punch of the album’s earlier tracks and just feel kind of there, while the overactive hyper-pop of the title track feels far too busy and uncomfortable a listen. Still, amidst its flaws, Patrick Stump’s impeccable vocals still manage to shine through American Beauty / American Psycho, buoying even the weakest moments to sound at least somewhat palatable at any given point.
There’s no doubt that American Beauty / American Psycho won’t sit well with some people. There will always be some old Fall Out Boy fans who would prefer a return to the days of Take This To Your Grave or From Under The Cork Tree, but that’s very unlikely to happen. A more worthwhile prospect would be to just go with this new experimental sound – there are still parts that could use a bit of honing, but overall, Fall Out Boy’s first entire foray into the world of the pop sees them doing so with confidence and wide-eyed excitement. And in terms of true reinvention, that’s the best anyone could really ask for.
For fans of: Cobra Starship, Panic! At The Disco, Set It Off
Words by Luke Nuttall