Review: Fall Out Boy – American Beauty/ American Psycho

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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.

4.5/5

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 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!

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Monumentour: The rebirth of Paramore and Fall Out Boy

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Only a few short years ago, the careers of two of the largest rock bands in America appeared to be finished. The shocking departure of founding members Josh and Zac Farro put Paramore’s future in jeopardy in late 2010, while Fall Out Boy’s indefinite hiatus was looking more and more like a definite break-up with each passing day.

It’s funny how fast things can change. Not only are both bands still active, but both have once again climbed to the top of the alt-rock pack. Last year, Paramore triumphantly returned to the scene, releasing their self-titled album on April 5, 2013. A week later, Fall Out Boy released their comeback album, Save Rock and Roll. Both albums topped the Billboard 200 and cemented both bands once more in the pop culture conscience.

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The names Fall Out Boy and Paramore have been intertwined for the better part of a decade now. Both acts served as the face of the new emo wave spilling from the ranks of Fueled By Ramen in the early aughts. Both rose to prominence in the pop world, while usurping the Warped Tour scene and maintaining their core fan bases. Both proved their musical chops with consistent hit songs and lauded full length releases. Both battled inner turmoil and fractures.

For two bands so similar in sound and story, it’s almost shocking that Fall Out Boy and Paramore had never officially toured together until now. The announcement of the Monumentour in early 2014 brought excitement, not only for the chance to see the scene’s two flagship bands together, but as proof that the shelf life of this scene is much longer than anyone expected.

To see these two bands perform on the same night is to understand why they’re not only still around, but filling amphitheatres and arenas across the country. Like it or not, these to acts are extremely talented and capable of putting on a show for the ages.

Having attended the Indianapolis date of the Vans Warped Tour at Klipsch Music Center only a week prior, it was somewhat alarming to see how much distance lies between two bands of this caliber and the rest of the pack. The lights, screens, flames and explosive production of the Monumentour set things apart for certain, but the overall stage presence and performance of both Paramore and Fall Out Boy lie miles ahead of the competition.

To see Paramore vocalist Hayley Williams perform a set is to see an unquenchable ball of energy. Running across the stage, sprinting up ramps that lead to twenty-foot tall platforms, and relentlessly jumping and head-banging doesn’t seem to affect her. Even after a workout that would level almost everyone in attendance, Williams is still able to belt out every note of “Ain’t It Fun”, the 14th and final song of the band’s set.

Williams’ colorful, joyful and spunky display is carried even higher by bassist Jeremy Davis and guitarist Taylor York’s ability to shred through the band’s songs. The addition of former Underoath drummer Aaron Gillespie tacks on another dose of energy to push things over the top. Paramore are no longer the little sibling that tagged along to the party – they’re a full-blown massive rock group, more than able to hold their own on the largest of stages. Even without the pyrotechnics to add a spicy visual, Paramore in many ways outperforms Fall Out Boy with their relentless drive and Williams’ ability to rile up the crowd.

Upbeat and bouncy songs like “Still Into You”, “That’s What You Get” and “Misery Business” litter the setlist, keeping things moving at a furious pace. Nevertheless, the band is still able to slow things down with “The Only Exception” and dig at deeper nerves with “Let the Flames Begin” and “Part II” without messing up the vibe.

In truth, the band has enough back catalogue at this point to create a set of such different emotional turning points, while still leading to a fresh and buoyant close. It’s clear that Paramore is much more than a one-trick pony. Instead, they’ve weathered the storm and remained as relevant and impactful on the scene as ever, changing and growing in ways that only serve to prepare them for more future success.

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The last time I saw Fall Out Boy, the band had just returned from their hiatus and were playing a local club show. The setlist consisted of many of the band’s greatest hits, with a few of their new tracks thrown in for good measure. On the Monumentour, the band is heavy on Save Rock and Roll material, playing eight songs from the album within their 18-song set.

If you’re still on the fence about Save Rock and Roll, it would serve you well to witness the songs on the Monumentour. What wasn’t clear before becomes obvious now – these songs were created to rock arenas. Tracks like “Alone Together”, “Death Valley” and “Young Volcanoes” sound absolutely massive in this environment, backed with some of the best live production of the band’s career.

Smoke blows and fire blazes as the band rips through their set. A drum-off between drummer Andy Hurley and vocalist Patrick Stump and a powerful rendition of Queen’s “We Are the Champions”, with Stump behind a piano, serve as pleasant surprises. It’s hard to believe this is the same band that used to sell out dive bars and basement punk shows in Chicago.

All in all, you know what you’re getting at this point with Fall Out Boy. Stump’s vocals seem to get better and better with each passing year, as he shows off his range throughout the set. Guitarist Joe Trohman is allowed a bit more of the spotlight during this tour, shredding a few guitar solos when the opportunity arises. Bassist Pete Wentz serves as the band’s pseudo-frontman, firing up the crowd and bantering between songs.

Fall Out Boy are far from newcomers to the mainstream pop world, and it shows in nearly every way at this point. They carry themselves like rock stars, in the best way, while making every performance count. It’s hard to imagine that the Monumentour and the success of their recent singles is the last we’ll hear – with a few more years of experience under their belt, one can imagine their next release being even larger than the last.

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Paramore and Fall Out Boy have both defeated the odds, and their demons, en route to the Monumentour. Truly, we’re all better for it. The talent amongst the individual members of these two bands is massive – the result of persistence, hard work and cherished natural ability.

Sometimes bands get lucky when they strike it big. In this case, it’s hard to imagine two other bands more deserving of such an explosive second chapter to their careers.

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.

Fall Out Boy premiere “Where Did the Party Go?” music video

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Fall Out Boy has released a new music video for their song “Where Did the Party Go?” The video is the seventh in the Young Blood Chronicles video series, featuring songs from their latest release, Save Rock and Roll. You can check out the video below.

If you haven’t already purchased one of the best albums of 2013, you can buy Save Rock and Roll on iTunes.