REVIEW: Fall Out Boy – “American Beauty/American Psycho”

Fall Out Boy are back with their latest album, “American Beauty/American Psycho”. As one of the premier names in pop punk, the group has evolved by leaps and bounds since their early releases. With several songs from the album being released in advance of the album, it’s interesting to see the dynamic of this album. The singles are jam-packed into the front end of the record, but overall, FOB keep a consistent sound from start to finish.

With no prelude, FOB launch into “Irresistable”, a horn-driven anthem that on the surface sounds like a huge deviation from the formula that took the band to the top of the pop punk world. It’s clear, though, that while the sound has evolved, there are still traces of mid-2000s emo to embrace (see lyric “I love the way you hurt me, baby”). From there, we enter the title track, a burst of hyperactivity that unfortunately misses the mark. For whatever reason, it feels like there is something missing from this song. We’re also two songs in, and the chorus to both songs have consisted of singing the song’s title as a drawn out note. As someone who remembers when Fall Out Boy had song titles as long as half of this review, it feels like there’s a slight lack of ambition.

Single “Centuries” keeps the spark on this album going, though again we’re singing a title as the focal point of the hook. However, the song is full of power, with it’s over the top layering and a haunting sample of Suzanne Vega’s 1987 single “Tom’s Diner”. The single is complemented by emo-sing along “The Kids Aren’t Alright”, which sounds like an update on the classic rock power ballad formula, with a more grandiose sound, and finally a compelling hook. Things move right along with “Uma Thurman”, which is best described as a remix of the theme song from “The Munsters” (but the kids won’t know that!). Halfway through the record, and it almost feels like you’re being duped; as if it’s a Fall Out Boy album, but they’re playing DJ at times. All things considered, while FOB have progressed with every release, this is definitely a more evolved, fuller sounding Fall Out Boy. It’s not 2004 Fall Out Boy, but then again, it’s not 2004 anymore, either.

The back half of the record begins with “Jet Pack Blues” another emo sing-along, ready-made for a live show if there’s ever been a song worthy of it. The tempo picks up again on “Novocaine”, another powerful, punchy song featuring Stump straining his voice throughout. “Fourth Of July” feels aptly named; it has many qualities of a summer pop song. I would expect it to be in the pipeline of the recent FOB radio onslaught, though at times it feels a little bit hollow at times. We finally hear some guitars and drum fills creep into the album on “Favorite Record”, though they’re accompanied with an overly synthesized talk box. You win some, you lose some, I guess.

The album closes out with “Immortals” which (surprise!) consists of a virtually one-word hook. While the production goes big on this album, the lyrics (or sometimes lack thereof) throw songs like this off-balance. The album is rounded out by “Twin Skeleton’s (Hotel In NYC)”, which has more of the catchy songwriting that we’re used to. Even with that aspect improving, it’s not much of a standout. The whole is definitely equal to the sum of it’s parts here; while “American Beauty/American Psycho” isn’t a bad record by any means, it does very little to make it a standout in the Fall Out Boy discography.

As mentioned earlier, it’s not 2004 anymore, and Fall Out Boy know it. However, there’s a general overtone of “meh” here. In a way, it seems like FOB are becoming two separate bands; a live show full of the same energy and grit that we’re used to, dead-set on saving rock n’ roll, and conversely, a processed, recorded pop act. There’s an incredible under usage of Andy Hurley’s talent as a drummer, which is mainly dictated by the songwriting and production. It’s also hard to find a lot of guitar parts in the album, as well. This has the feel of being Patrick Stump’s  “Soulpunk” Part Two at times, which is sort of unfortunate when you’re expecting Fall Out Boy as a unit. Nevertheless, there isn’t anything that makes it a bad album; you just have to take it for what it is.