Album A&E is a new series in which we revisit underrated or misunderstood albums and give them some much-needed rehabilitation. Here’s a look at Fall Out Boy’s ‘Folie à Deux’
Fall Out Boy are back with a new, modestly-titled album: ‘Save Rock And Roll’. Why is no one celebrating? It’s been just over four years since the pop-rock quartet from Wilmette, Illinois released the magnificent ‘Folie à Deux’ and yet their return has been greeted with at best, a lukewarm reaction, and at worst, a sneer. “They were about as entertaining as bowel cancer,” raged Robert Dalton in the comments section of our news story announcing the band’s comeback. “The song title alone made me spew,” said Dale Hogan.
This kind of vitriol is an occupational hazard if you happen to be a member of Fall Out Boy, but after the release of ‘Folie à Deux’, the knives were out. “At no other point in my professional career was I nearly booed off stages for playing new songs,” wrote lead singer Patrick Stump in a now deleted blog post. “Touring on Folie was like being the last act at the vaudeville show: We were rotten vegetable targets in Clandestine hoods.”
There was little solace to be found in the record’s reviews either, with The Guardian deriding a “pretty unremarkable album”, and Slant Magazine claiming ‘Folie à Deux’s best moments were “rare and fleeting”. No wonder Stump dismissed himself as a 27-year-old has-been. NME’s Dan Martin was kinder, but conceded the band had always been considered “a bit of a joke”.
Now here’s why they’re all wrong. Where Weezer’s ‘Pinkerton’ inadvertently contributed to emo’s genesis by laying bare the extent of Rivers Cuomo’s self-loathing, ‘Folie à Deux’ completely inverted this formula at the exact moment emo reached its commercial deathknell. In the case of ‘Pinkerton’, all Weezer’s fans wanted was a return to the radio-friendly cheer of ‘Buddy Holly’. With ‘Folie à Deux’, Fall Out Boy alienated their audience by maxing out on gleeful bombast. Disciples of ‘Sugar, We’re Goin Down’ simply did not want to hear tracks like ‘20 Dollar Nose Bleed’, a jaunty knees up in tribute to the joys of benzedrine addiction.
When faced with the same dilemma of whether to reinvent in an increasingly divisive genre, each of Fall Out Boy’s contemporaries faltered. My Chemical Romance recorded and scrapped the songs they’re only now releasing under the ‘Conventional Weapons’ tag. Panic! at the Disco unleashed ‘Pretty. Odd’ upon the world, the world didn’t much fancy it and drastic line-up alterations quickly followed. Even Brand New, who’d only flirted with mainstream success, felt compelled to churn out the divisive ‘Daisy’.
That said, drastic reinvention is no guarantee of success. Nor, in ‘Folie’s’ case, is stuffing your album with guest vocal turns from Lil Wayne, Elvis Costello, Pharrell Williams and Debbie Harry. If we’re listing factors which may well confuse your fanbase and hinder the popularity of your latest album, naming its lead single ‘I Don’t Care’ is also one to avoid.
But the genius of Folie à Deux’ lies in this sort of lunacy. Fall Out Boy always knew how to write a catchy track, and on their lowest-selling major label album they pushed this formula to its breaking point. ‘Tiffany Blews’ is a punk-funk song with a hip-hop middle eight. ‘Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown On A Bad Bet’ segues from a sombre piano-lead interlude to a rousing fanfare of trumpets. Most bonkers of all is ‘What A Catch, Donnie’ where the best lines from ‘Dance, Dance’, ‘Thnks fr th Mmrs’ and ‘Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy’ are recalled in a mock operatic fashion.
On the occasions where Fall Out Boy do play it completely straight during ‘Folie à Deux’, the result is a trio of belters. ‘She’s My Winoa’, ‘America’s Suitehearts’ and ‘The (Shipped) Gold Standard’ are sugar-coated self-loathing in the most delectable form imaginable.
Commercially, the smart thing for Fall Out Boy to do on their return this week would have been to disavow the spirit of ‘Folie à Deux’. Instead they recruited 2 Chainz to star in the video for the titanically epic ‘My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)’. Pete Wentz, Patrick Stump, Joe Trohman and their monstrously hairy drummer Andy Hurley have not changed a bit. Your move, haters.