Review: Fall Out Boy – Lake Effect Kid

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It’s a cliché at this point for bands to try to rediscover their roots or pay homage to their hometown. However, Fall Out Boy’s Lake Effect Kid EP is one of the few that feels genuine. Brief as it may be, these three songs not only form a love letter to Chicago, they offer a brief history of the band’s evolving sound. What could have easily been a quick gimmick is actually a near essential piece that quickly and unapologetically shows Fall Out Boy paying attention to their own legacy.

You can buy or stream Lake Effect Kid on Apple Music.

“Lake Effect Kid” is a B-Side that has made the rounds online for quite some time. Without a proper release or context, it could be easy to overlook. I have often enjoyed the song, but understood why it had been cut from Infinity On High or Folie à Deux. However, this new mix sounds more refined and complete. Additionally, when paired with “City in a Garden”, the song takes on more body, context, and heart.

“City in a Garden”, though it may be a Chicago-centric love fest, is arguably Fall Out Boy’s most accessible and singable single since “Thnks fr th Mmrs”. Oozing with nostalgia, hooks, and dreamlike drumbeats, “City in a Garden” is for Chicago what Jason Mraz and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are for California. While it sonically sounds like a ballad off an older release, the synth and beat are distinctly part of FOB’s new era. “City in a Garden” manages to encapsulate almost every aspect of Fall Out Boy that could make a person fall in love with the band.

Lake Effect Kid’s biggest strength is how reflective it is, while still pushing ahead for the band. “Lake Effect Kid” is the pop punk older fans have been craving for years. “City in a Garden” is the kind of pop song the band couldn’t have written even a couple of years ago without the experience they have now. Meanwhile, closing track “Super Fade” moves forward with experimentation in a place that won’t ruin the flow of a full album. Borrowing heavily from the divisive single, “Young and Menace”, “Super Fade” sounds like a slip-up of a song. However, this EP is the ideal place to work out the kinks of this style of songwriting.

Lake Effect Kid not only pays homage to Chicago as the band’s stomping grounds, it pays homage to their past work. The EP is an answer for anyone who has claimed that the band sold out their sound over the last few albums. Equally as exciting, it shows Fall Out Boy’s willingness to look back on themselves with the same reverence and enthusiasm they’ve shown when looking forward.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle 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 makes a gosh darn good apple pie.

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Review: Fall Out Boy – MANIA

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MANIA may be the most infuriating album of the last few years, and one of the few to actually exist and live by its name. Announced nearly a year in advance, launched with a lackluster single, delayed six months, and posted with the wrong tracklist on every digital platform, MANIA is a mess at every conceivable angle. And yet, it is absolutely brilliant.

You can buy MANIA on iTunes.

It is the direct result of Fall Out Boy’s experimentation in pop since their reformation in 2013. The songs are cleaner and the choruses reflect the soaring experiences of Folie À Deux. But MANIA is an experience unto itself that forces you to earn its respect. This will surely be Fall Out Boy’s most divisive album for a number of reasons, but one stands out in particular: There are accidentally two versions of it. If nothing else, the album is a master class in how the order of the tracks can make or break an album.

The initial digital release (the wrong tracklist) held to my belief that I wouldn’t care for MANIA. It sounded dourer and lacked the energy I expect of FOB; just a bunch of uninspired singles with “Young and Menace” as its thesis. However, once the tracklist for the physical release appeared (the right one) and the songs were rearranged, it completely and utterly changed everything. MANIA was an entirely different album that somehow shined and overflowed with the confident sway of Fall Out Boy. It was tight, concise and moved seamlessly.

This version of MANIA is the best album Fall Out Boy have released since Infinity on High.

This album shines with the sound of a classic the way the band’s early releases did. After the unarguable mixed results of pushing the radio-pop sound of their last two albums, MANIA focuses those efforts to a fine point. The guitars are more noticeable than any release since their pop punk days, the percussion is hypnotic, and the bass is monstrous. Patrick Stump, already guaranteed to give a stellar performance, absolutely soars. If the singles didn’t impress upon initial release, listen to them in the context of the album. I don’t know what black magic is at work, but it somehow changes everything.

Opener “Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea” is a dark rock song with a deep bass that sets up the album with a thesis of acknowledging a chaotic world and the frustrations in it, but how a belief in yourself can overcome it. “The Last of the Real Ones” is a raging pop song centered on imagery of celestial bodies spinning in space.

One of the biggest surprises is the pairing of “Church” and “Heaven’s Gate” at the midpoint of the album. “Church” is an epic sounding rock song that focuses on Pete Wentz’s melodic bass leading a ‘church’ choir through the song. Accompanied by the soft chime of bells and Andy Hurley’s hard percussion, Stump finds equal footing in the love song and prays for a way through personal demons as he sings, “I love the world but I just don’t like the way it makes me feel / Got a few more fake friends and it’s getting hard to know what’s real”.

“Heaven’s Gate” is much softer, with a soul sound that allows Stump’s vocals to jump in spectacular fashion. If you ever needed proof that he may be the best vocalist of any rock band, this will be all the evidence you need. Propelled by the strength of “Church” before it, “Heaven’s Gate” feels all the stronger when Stump croons, “Give me a boost over heaven’s gate / I’m gonna need a boost cause everything else is a substitute for your love”.

Which brings us to “Young and Menace”, the reason I initially soured to MANIA a year before it was even released. An EDM inspired hot mess with a bare thread chorus, I have found this song near unlistenable since its release if for no other reason than the high pitched sampling of Stump’s vocals during the breakdown. However, sitting near the end of the album (instead of the opening track), it is propelled by the songs before it and doesn’t sound nearly as out of place.

After the soaring choruses and precise pop of songs like “HOLD ME TIGHT OR DON’T”, “Young and Menace” is an acknowledgement of Fall Out Boy’s mixed reception since their reformation. The song itself is the most extreme sound they’ve ever attempted, as though it is meant to turn off listeners. However, as Stump sings, “I’m just here flying off the deep end / I’m just here to become the best yet / I’m here for the psych assessment / I’m just here for the, for the fall”, it’s a message to fans that they are aware that they aren’t writing the punk songs half of their fanbase still wants. Instead, they know what direction they to travel in order to become the best band they can be.

MANIA is an anomaly that may just change your opinion of it based on what tracklist you hear. It forces you to work to enjoy it. But once it clicks, it is a beast that harnesses years of experimentation. Even a song as manic as the garbage fire of “Young and Menace” feel like one big feint to throw you off the trail, just to swing out of nowhere. It took a year to make me excited about this album, but it was absolutely worth the wait.

5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle 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 cannot accept how much he enjoys MANIA. On a scale of just and even, he is sooooo can’t. See you at Wrigley, you monsters of music.

Reflecting On: Fall Out Boy – Infinity on High

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I believe Infinity on High to be Fall Out Boy’s best album, but there’s plenty of room for debate. What’s not up for debate is the fact that the scene will never again see the heights it reached by the time the album released.

Between the moment “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” hit radio airwaves in 2005 and the opening notes of “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race” first graced our speakers in early 2007, things had changed. Underoath had a gold record. Gym Class Heroes were in regular rotation on top 40 radio. Cartel had signed on for an MTV reality show. Panic! at the Disco had graced the cover of Rolling Stone. A few months later, Paramore would crash the party and go platinum.

You can buy Infinity on High on iTunes.

You can buy Infinity on High on iTunes.

To say that the stakes were high for Fall Out Boy leading up to the release of Infinity on High would be putting it lightly. With From Under the Cork Tree, the band had fallen backwards into unlikely stardom, effectively dragging an entire scene into the spotlight with them. Was Fall Out Boy’s success a flash in the pan, or were they truly an outlier – a band with legs that could carry them far beyond the confines of the Warped Tour bubble?

Infinity on High did not disappoint, and in hindsight, it’s easy to look back at the album as the moment that Fall Out Boy lifted the title belt as the clear winner of the very competition they inadvertently started.

If you’re like me, you can easily recall certain moments outside of the music itself that stick out in your mind. The shock of hearing Jay-Z’s voice open the album, declaring the band’s arrival on the big stage. Walking into a Circuit City and seeing the video for “This Ain’t a Scene” playing on every TV screen in the store. Finding the band on the cover of magazines and tabloids in every check out line, exuding an air of emo indifference.

Ironically, it was this very fame and the suffocation it breeds that led Pete Wentz to unleash his pen in retaliation. Wentz had already cemented himself as a narcissistic, silver-tongued lyricist before Infinity, but decided to turn his attention away from perpetual heartbreak and self-destruction and toward critics, haters, the scene and even himself.

Wentz flashes his pessimism on “The Take Over, The Breaks Over” with, “They say your head can be a prison, then these are just conjugal visits / People will dissect us till this doesn’t mean a thing anymore”. Moments later on “This Ain’t a Scene”, he dismisses the late arrivals: “This bandwagon’s full / Please, catch another”.

With the release of Infinity, the days of starry-eyed Chicago boys with dreams of a breakthrough would forever be over. The consequences of those achievements proved to be even more compelling. Wentz’s ability to communicate the resulting pain in between his rapid cocksure gunfire remains both legendary and poignant in lines like, “The only thing I haven’t done yet is die / And it’s me and my plus one at the afterlife” and “I sing the blues and swallow them, too”.

With lyrics this meaty and full of double meanings and unexpected turns of phrase, translation into digestible bites would have been nearly impossible had Patrick Stump not come into his own at just the right moment. On Infinity, Stump makes his first major transition from pop punk crooner to pop star diva, taking full advantage of his vocal range. His high notes are higher, his runs are more daring, his melodies are tighter. With the band now fully incorporating R&B, pop and soul elements, it provided the perfect platform for a star to appear right before our very eyes.

As a result, the band’s most unrelatable album became a smashing success on the charts. Half victory lap around the ring, half vicious rebuttal to naysayers, Infinity on High succeeded amidst Wentz’s snark thanks to a sonically diverse experience that elevated the band out of the pop punk mire. Even so, early signs of the band’s crash landing hiatus could be seen on the horizon, with Stump and Wentz fighting for the proverbial spotlight with drummer Andy Hurley and guitarist Joe Trohman watching from the sidelines.

As clear as the warning signs were, it’s also obvious that this period of the band’s career made their later comeback possible. Fall Out Boy’s 2013 rebirth and subsequent return to the top of the charts speaks volumes to the clout the band has earned. Following the events of 2007, the scene at large would begin to descend back to its original home in the underground with only a few stars surving the oversaturation.

A decade later, it’s nearly impossible to imagine a band from our scene rising to fame as quickly and powerfully as Fall Out Boy. Could another band be this divisive? Be this willing and able to transform? Have this much longevity? Love them or hate them, Fall Out Boy are still the undisputed champions of a short-lived arms race, with Infinity on High standing as a monument to a time when the sky was the limit. Long live the car crash hearts.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

It’s All Dead Podcast Episode: 012 – The Best of Fall Out Boy

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If American Beauty/American Psycho is any indication, Fall Out Boy are at the top of their game with no signs of slowing down. After a decade of relevance for the band, Kiel and Kyle decide to reflect on the band’s career and rank the band’s albums and best songs. They also discuss Fall Out Boy’s legacy and contemplate what the future may hold for the band. What is the best Fall Out Boy album? You’ll have to listen in and find out!

[audio http://traffic.libsyn.com/itsalldead/IAD_Podcast_012_mixdown.mp3|titles=It’s All Dead podcast episode: 012]

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Posted by Kiel Hauck