If one thing has characterized Fall Out Boy’s return from their hiatus two years ago, it has been ‘going big.’ Save Rock & Roll was a bold step for a band that came back out of nowhere to appease a legion of fans expecting pop punk emo songs. Despite the complete upending of their signature sound, the style and glamor that made FOB famous was still there in the finesse.
American Beauty/ American Psycho takes every ingredient of Save Rock & Roll and amplifies them to the utmost degree. What results is an album that is either the band’s greatest achievement or the most abrasive listen for their fans.
Let’s get this out of the way: If you want Take This To Your Grave-era FOB, you will hate AB/AP. This isn’t for you. Fall Out Boy have crafted a pop album so epic, Maroon 5 should feel ashamed. There is a depth to the songs that seems impossible. The percussion and beats are hard and made to fill a dance floor. Spread over them is a sea of swarming guitars and synth, and some of the best bass Pete Wentz has put out there.
What’s amazing about AB/AP is that it’s such an eclectic mixture of styles. The entire album is at once cohesive and intensely diverse. Each song sounds ready to either fill a stadium or a dance floor, but the styles vary from song to song. “Irresistible” is a polished pop song with an over the top glam chorus, “Uma Thurman” is a surf rock inspired grinder and “Jet Pack Blues” is a somber ballad-esque jam. For as diverse as the album can be, it doesn’t sound as slapped together as parts of Save Rock & Roll, instead it shows the artistic foresight and planning of an album like Infinity on High.
FOB haven’t completely abandoned rock for pop. “Novocaine” is a grunge inspired song reminiscent of a blend of “Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown On A Bad Bet” and “From Now On We Are Enemies”. The guitar riffs are brutal but carry the soulfulness of early Fall Out Boy, followed by an insanely catchy but impossible to sing along to chorus (due to Patrick Stump’s high vocals).
“Favorite Record” is one of the least polished songs on the album, stripped of most of the production for parts of the song. It’s a light rock song carried with guitar riffs and a bouncing bass line that sounds like it was ripped out of the From Under The Cork Tree sessions and patched up with modern pop tones and rerecorded drums.
The only song that hit me wrong was the title track “American Beauty/ American Psycho”. On an album filled with variant styles, this song is unto itself something completely different. The abrasive beat and leveled bass lines can make the song a hard listen. I hated this song, I really did. After the first few listens though, it won me over and is now something I can’t resist wanting to dance to. Fucking Fall Out Boy…
Another thing that sets this album apart is the use of sampling other songs. For more detail on this, please see Alt Press. It’s an element that I noticed briefly, I don’t feel comfortable talking at length about it simply because I am unfamiliar with most of the sampled music and more than likely missed a majority of it.
Let’s talk Patrick Stump for a moment. He’s been the face of the band for over a decade now with a vocal range unlike anyone else in the scene (now the field). He shines so brightly on AB/AP that I can’t imagine how he’ll ever top this performance. Despite always being one of the best singers I could name, he still manages to utterly impress with how daring he is to explore the full extent of his vocal range. It’s hard for me not to say that he’s the shining star on the album.
The only downside to American Beauty/American Psycho is perhaps the lyricism. While they’re still expertly written and among Pete Wentz’s best, they still cover topics that we already know and expect from FOB. Wentz still pens expansive lines of self grandiosity brimming with sexual undertones, but they’re just done better. It’s not a bad thing, but it almost feels expected and standard fare at this point.
An example would be “The Kids Aren’t Alright” as Stump sings, “I’m not passive, but aggressive / Take note, it’s not impressive / Empty your sadness like you’re dumping your purse on my bedroom floor”. But there are glimpses of old school FOB shining through in the lyrics, as in the same song Stump sings, “I still feel that rush in my veins / It twists my head just a bit too thin / All those people in those old photographs I’ve seen are dead”.
“Novocaine” adds some truly punk inspiration to the pop sensibilities as it fights back against love songs in spectacular fashion with lines like “If you knew, knew what the bluebirds sing at you / You would never sing along / Cast them out ‘cause this is our culture”.
American Beauty/ American Psycho is an unimaginable mixture of what made us love Fall Out Boy years ago blended with electric modern style. In an era where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to be a musician, FOB are storming ahead with such a confidence, it’s hard to ask for a return to their pop punk roots. American Beauty/American Psycho is one of the most punk rock messages in pop; they took the genre by storm, and better than the biggest pop acts. The worst part about this album is knowing how long the wait will be until the next one.
by Kyle Schultz
Kyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and refused to listen to FOB until sometime in 2007 because his ex-girlfriend was obsessed with “Dance Dance” and he is petty. He was part of the crowd crushing rush to the front of the stage to see them at Riot Fest 2013. YAY!