December 4, 2008
Fall Out Boy
Folie À Deux
8 / 10
The first song on the fifth Fall Out Boy album is called ‘Lullabye/Disloyal Order Of Water Buffalos’. Well, of course it is. And among the rock operatics and ‘Radio Ga Ga’-style chants of “Detox! /Just to retox!” sits one of Pete Wentz’s most self-aware lyrics: “Nobody wants to hear you sing about tragedy”. This has been the reason why, outside of their (gigantic) army of followers and footsoldiers, Fall Out Boy have always been considered a bit of a joke.
The pool-party lifestyle, the clothing lines and the Kanye complex never really squared with the stories of suicide attempts and lyrics that tried to marshall this generation’s discontent in the way that My Chemical Romance, say, have always managed so winningly.
Sure, all of that’s here as well, but with ‘Folie À Deux’ (meaning ‘a madness shared by two’), something remarkable has happened. The myth has converged with the music, and what they’ve ended up with is something of a defining statement. Wentz’s life has only got madder since last year’s ‘Infinity On High’ – what with the engagement to popstrel Ashlee Simpson and a new son just born. And the band have responded with their most stylistically hatstand-but-indisputably-best songs yet. We’re not saying it’s as good as genre watermarks ‘American Idiot’ or ‘The Black Parade’. We’re just saying it comes close.
‘Folie À Deux’ obliterates the other major diss proffered by emo purists, that they’re nothing more than a boyband (as if boybands are not allowed to make emo anyway), because it transcends the genre. It’s a big, stupid guitar-pop album, as much in thrall to Jim Steinman rock operas as it is to The Neptunes, and held together by what had always made Fall Out Boy sound like Fall Out Boy.
Take ‘America’s Suitehearts’, a gigantic soul jam powered by acrobatic guitars, with Patrick Stump channelling Miles Davis as much as Billie Joe Armstrong. ‘Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown On A Bad Bet’, a punk symphony with synth stabs, somehow morphs into Queen along the way,
and ‘(Coffee’s For Closers)’ ends with a crescendo of symphonic strings. Elsewhere they pull off a torch song on ‘What A Catch, Donnie’; ‘Tiffany Blews’ channels ’80s funk and adds a rap from Lil Wayne; and the Neptunes-produced ‘w.a.m.s.’ is a propulsive, driving rock song that ends up with Pharrell doing what sounds like an impression of Crack Fox from The Mighty Boosh.
Incidentally, those two are the only ones out of the many cameos that you’ll actually be able to identify. You’ll struggle to pick out Debbie Harry or Brendon from Panic or Travis from Gym Class Heroes or William from The Academy Is... or Elvis Costello scattered across the album. Their presence seems a lot like showing off and sums up the only real niggle. FOB have always strived for a hip-hop take on punk and, while they’ve pulled it off, they also suffer from the wildest excesses and flimsy quality control that most hip-hop albums do. As if they’re only doing these things because they can. Christ knows what they were trying to do when they planned to release this on election day other than feed Wentz’s messiah complex.
But it’s still a staggering achievement. Where else could you hear, as on ‘20 Dollar Nosebleed’, a punk-pop song in ragtime about recreational Benzedrine? It’s a madness that deserves to be shared by many.
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