The sun sets on everything eventually. That was, until Fall Out Boy dragged their flailing corpse up from the depths of the emo-graveyard in 2013 after a five year hiatus.
Their comeback was unprecedented, and sometimes admirable, recognising a changed tide within their genre, consciously toeing a line between what fans knew and loved, with what they needed to do as a band to stay relevant. Now, on their seventh album, ‘M A N I A’, it looks as though time has caught up with them again, as the sun finally sets on an unparalleled legacy.
‘M A N I A’ is, by no means, a terrible album. It would even be a stretch to call it ‘bad’, just because it’s so much darn fun to listen to. All of the elements still work – Patrick Stump’s voice remains one of the most unusual and enjoyable to listen to, even beyond the realms of emo and pop punk. The vocal loops and scales on Wilson (Expensive Mistakes) are playful to go along with some equally tongue-in-cheek lyrics: “I know it’s just a number but you’re the 8th wonder/I’ll stop wearing black when they make a darker colour.”
The reintroduction of live drums from Andy Hurley is welcome, given that they opted for a lot of electronic sampling throughout their previous two endeavours. Hurley has always been the hidden gem of the quartet- not as media polished as bassist Pete Wentz, or as prominent as Stump. And yet, the percussion is the only thing you hear on songs like Sunshine Riptide, a reggae-tinged dance hall sad bop that sees Hurley motoring along with Stump’s far-away-look lament on the chorus.
The Last Of The Real Ones was cruelly overlooked during its single release, and marked the band’s last chance at an authentic hit, not just a smash-and-grab release for radio play. The lyricism is peak-Wentz material – “I wonder if your therapist knows everything about me” – a script about a morally challenged boy and his love for a girl out of reach. It’ll do nothing for the nay-sayers bar further alienate them, but for the die-hards, it’s kryptonite, and a call-back to the era of Hot Topic and LiveJournal – not to dynamite that striking piano riff all the way through.
There’s other glaring additions that can’t be overlooked – the album’s lead single Young And Menace shoves in a wholly unnecessary Britney Spears reference, and dubstep breakdown nobody saw coming (or asked for). Given its lukewarm reception upon release, it’s no wonder the band scurried back to the drawing board, delaying the LP’s own release. They were beginning to show their age, as well as their desperation for chart success.
Unfortunately, Hold Me Tight Or Don’t follows a similar pattern. An almost tropical house-inspired effort, it’s certainly not as aurally violating as Young And Menace, but it’s still rather imposing when you line it up with the other tracks.
A number of their previous noughtie releases did well in the most unlikely of places – Centuries became the ESPN’s official theme song for sports coverage. My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark was used at several sports-broadcasting soundtracks the year it came out. On ‘M A N I A’, they can be heard on several occasions flinging similar darts with Champion and Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea, (yes, they’re back on their obscure-movie-reference-titling-bullshit). But both efforts are transparent with their aims, and, above all else, lazy.
Bishop’s Knife Trick provides the appropriate melancholic closer – “These are the last blues we’re ever gonna have
Let’s see how deep we get/The glow of the cities below lead us back/To the places that we never should have left.” As they head back to Chicago to play the mother-of-all homecoming gigs at Wrigley Park, they can be confident in the legacy they leave behind, and the wider impact they’ve had on music and pop culture. It’s a shame they didn’t call a halt an album or so ago and end on the high that is reflective of them. But it’s hard not to chase that sunset when the view is so good.