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The recent evolution of Fall Out Boy from emo punk wunderkinder to bona fide global pop superstars has been one of music’s most unexpected and enthralling phenomenons to behold. The Chicago quartet has consistently thrown curve balls our way for over a decade, still managing to score a swag of home-run hits along the way. Having returned from a brief hiatus with 2013’s ambitious Save Rock And Roll, an album which saw the band drift even further away from their punk rock roots, it was hard to envision what surprises they had left. Then American Beauty/American Psycho happened.
The band’s sixth full length album, American Beauty/American Psycho is a hyperactive affair which sees bassist and primary songwriter Pete Wentz, guitarist Joe Trohman and drummer Andy Hurley strap themselves to Patrick Stump’s soaring vocals and set course for the stratosphere. They very nearly get there. As diverse of a collection of pop songs as you could hope to find, it’s an enthralling affair that takes you on a mostly enjoyable journey through a futuristic sonic palette.
Irresistible is a shrewd choice of opener. Its familiar blend of soulful vocals, danceable rhythms and sensual lyrics will have your feet tapping from the moment the groove-heavy beat drops. The title track and lead single Centuries follow a similar pattern. The former features inspired contributions from Hurley and Wentz alongside an unexpectedly aggressive bridge, recalling one-time contemporaries Taking Back Sunday. The latter integrates a sample of Suzanne Vega’s Tom’s Diner to devastating effect.
The Kids Aren’t Alright provides an entrancing juxtaposition of decidedly dark lyrical matter delivered via a joyous vocal melody. Uma Thurman, meanwhile, is perhaps the world’s first-ever spaghetti western dancefloor filler. It relies on a sample of the theme from The Munsters, a risky move but it pays off — the end result is dangerous and sexy, much like its Tarantino-muse namesake.
Listen: Fall Out Boy - Uma Thurman
Without a doubt, Stump’s blue-eyed soul vocals are the band’s greatest asset, and his work is the focal point of every song here. He’s particularly impressive on downcast ballad Jet Pack Blues, and on the menacing Novocaine, in which he displays a newfound swagger. At only 30 years old, Stump’s voice has seemingly limitless potential.
It’s not a one-man show. Wentz’s lyrics remain as intelligent and humorous as ever, and his bass contributions are essential elements of nearly every song. Trohman’s understated yet inventive guitar work seems forever destined to be criminally underappreciated, but is once again exemplary here. Hurley may just be the best metal drummer a pop band’s ever had. See how he absolutely powers through closer Twin Skeleton’s (Hotel In NYC) for proof.
Not everything on offer here can be classified as essential — Fourth Of July and Immortals are just kinda there — but the fact remains that even lacklustre Fall Out Boy songs contain more hooks than most bands could hope to pen in a career. Older fans may be disappointed the band didn’t incorporate more of the punk-rock elements they hinted at via 2013’s PAX AM Days EP, but those hopes would have been misguided. Fall Out Boy haven’t been a punk band for close to a decade. What they are is a world-class progressive pop-rock band.
Though not as genre-defining as From Under The Cork Tree, or as game-changing as From Infinity On High, American Beauty/American Psycho is a fine modern pop record, home to enough hits to ensure Fall Out Boy remain perched high upon their throne as undisputed rulers of the pop rock world.
Listen: Fall Out Boy - Twin Skeletons (Hotel in NYC)