Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Review: Fall Out Boy - Folie A Deux (* * * 1/2)

Say what you will about Pete Wentz and co; despite all the publicity stunts, absurdly titled songs, and inability to take anything very seriously, the guys also keep giving good reasons as to why they deserve our attention. The band's ability to write hook-filled pop-punk tunes has elevated them above the majority of their peers and warrants some recognition. Their latest effort, Folie A Deux, continues the subtle expansion of their sound that started with Infinity On High by introducing more pop and R&B elements into the music along with an all-star guest list. It's a frequently great record that contains several of the group's best songs.

As usual, your enjoyment of Fall Out Boy's music depends much on your ability to handle Pete Wentz's over-stuffed, smart-ass lyrics, which can be distracting. Fortunately, between singer Patrick Stump's soulful gospel-choir vocals and the pop-oriented production, most of the songs succeed here. The strongest cuts stem from the band's adventurous side, like danceable arrangements combined with Stump's captivating performance on "Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown On A Bad Bet" or the uber-produced pop verses of "Tiffany Blews," on which Lil' Wayne also guests (singing, no less!). Also appearing on Folie is Elvis Costello (really), Brendon Urie of Panic At The Disco, Travis McCoy of Gym Class Heroes, and Debbie Harry of Blondie fame. What's most impressive is Fall Out Boys' ability to make their guests' contributions into more than just name-dropping.

The album also has it's share of weak moments when things get less funky and back to basics, a reminder that Fall Out Boy aren't the world's strongest songsmiths. Opener "Disloyal Order Of Water Buffaloes" (there's one of those titles), "The (Shipped) Gold Standard, and "27" are tunes whose blandness can't be masked in studio trickery. Furthermore, the record, like Infinity On High, suffers a bit from identity crisis. The wealth of ideas with very little direction or purpose cause the album to feel scattered, especially toward the end. You get the feeling that the same formula might wear out its welcome the next time around, but with so many great moments, Folie A Deux still makes for a worthwhile listen.

While Fall Out Boy haven't exactly reinvented themselves or even seriously pushed any musical boundaries, they're certainly continuing to move in the right direction. You might disagree, but as Stump wails "I don't care what you think as long as it's about me," over ZZ Top-esque guitars, you'll realize that it won't do any good to argue about it.


Laura said...

I am still giving it a good listen.

I agree that it has many good moments - most of which have to do with Stump's composition and vocal work. This was always the case for me, however.

So far, I am enjoying Infinity on High much more. We'll give this one time and its due listen to see if I feel the same. I am not a person who needs a band to stay the same. I am loving Panic!'s newest album, despite the complete dearth of techno undertow.

Here's what I'll say so far..

I enjoy Wentz's lyrics. Always have. I find that Wentz's lyrics match with Stump's composition make it work. Wentz as poetry-only, just does notwork, and someone needs to tell him so. Forcefully, if necessary. It is always the weakest moment of an album for them.

Although many albums have a musically similar theme that ties the whole package together, I'm finding many of the songs are sounding flat-out the same. This is driving me crazy. Even Green Day, with the repetitive three chord progression, managed to make Dookie interesting. So, I do feel they've lost a little something in terms of forward motion.

We shall see how I feel about it in a few weeks.

Who I am loving right now is a band I hope finally has some good US success. Marianas Trench, a Vancouver band, just came out with a single, which will be off of their second album. I thoroughly enjoyed the first one, Fix Me. Josh Ramsay has a great scream on him, and their songs go between very fun, pop-punk to achingly heartfelt.