American Beauty / American Psycho is Fall Out Boy’s worst album only because something has to go in last place. The group’s sixth full-length is still more interesting than many rock records from some of the more popular figures in the industry, but it does pale in comparison to previous releases.
There’s a lot that’s borrowed, not quite enough blue (at least for emo holdovers who love the self-deprecation that Patrick Stump sings about), plenty of new...but not enough of the old. The band wanted a hit from American Beauty / American Psycho, and they got it—“Centuries” hit the top 10, “Uma Thurman” peaked at No. 22, a single-only version of "Irresistible" featuring none other than Demi Lovato also reached the Hot 100—and while those who only know the band based on what's playing on the radio love hearing those hits, they are far from favorites for those who have stuck with FOB for over a decade.
The piano-heavy most recent outing doesn’t deliver the album that many fans were hoping for after the release date was pushed back by several months, though of course, it’s not as if Fall Out Boy crafted a “bad” record. Mania borrows some of the same tricks as previous album American Beauty / American Psycho, in that it samples well-known pop songs and infuses other genres into the mix, and while there are moments that show that the quartet still remember who they were—lines like “I’ll stop wearing black when they may a darker color” on “Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)” is particularly satisfying—for the most part, the oddities are missing, and that’s part of what made them so great.
Only those fans that were around before “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” will remember the band’s first full-length, but it remains an incredibly strong body of work, especially considering how little experience the band members had. While it never charted or garnered much attention outside of the pop-punk, alternative, and general underground rock scenes, Fall Out Boy quickly became kings in that world, and a re-listen shows that while the album is certainly rough around the edges and in need of better production quality, the talent and songwriting potential is there, and it’s undeniable.
Having already become one of the biggest rock bands in the world with both From Under The Cork Tree and Infinity on High, Fall Out Boy set their sights even higher, and this record saw them looking to bring those who don’t normally associate themselves with pop-punk, or even rock, for that matter, into the fray. While it’s still a great album that fans enjoyed, it was somewhat scattered, as the band clearly had a lot of ideas and wanted to try them all out. Every song on the collection is worth listening to, though as a whole, it’s not as cohesive as past projects, and even the catchy singles like "America's Suitehearts" and "Headfirst Slide into Cooperstown on a Bad Bet" didn’t resonate with the masses in quite the same way. It’s certainly easier to digest, but some of the flavor is missing.
After taking a little break to allow the members to relax and focus on their families, and for lead singer Patrick Stump to finally release a much-anticipated pop solo album (which didn't really take), Fall Out Boy reformed to “Save Rock and Roll,” and while there's plenty of debate about whether they actually accomplished their ambitious goal, they did produce one hell of a rocking record. Save Rock and Roll makes clever use of other production elements and unexpected guest stars (like Foxes, Big Sean, and even Elton John) to help the group potentially score a hit, while still allowing them to release something with massive guitar hooks. Thanks to that decision, songs like “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark” and “The Phoenix" still hold as two of the biggest, hardest singles they’ve ever released.
After making it big with From Under The Cork Tree, there was some worry that the bad would “sell out” in an effort to keep their hot streak going, but thankfully they were able to remain on top (and in fact rise even higher on the charts) without giving up what made them so special in the first place. Lead single “This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race" went all the way to No. 2, and the album itself topped the Billboard 200, making them the rare crossover success in a music industry that sees pop and hip-hop rule more often than not. The unforgiving collection also includes the especially-rude “Thnks fr th Mmrs,” another big hit for the band.
While they continue to make great music with every new album, it’s tough to imagine any Fall Out Boy album ever topping From Under The Cork Tree. The group’s second proper full-length catapulted them to fame, and they have never disappeared from the highest reaches of the charts ever since. FUTCT single “Sugar, We’re Going Down” remains one of the most beloved tracks to come from pop-punk’s heyday, while follow-up cut “Dance, Dance” ensured they didn’t end up a one-hit wonder.
Everything about the title is clever, catchy, and at the time, they were the first to be associated with the trappings that came with pop-punk, at least when the masses are concerned, so it helped make them tastemakers and to some, legends. One could easily argue that without From Under The Cork Tree, several other bands like Panic! at the Disco, Cobra Starship, and countless others might not have developed as they did, and pop-punk's reign could have ended much earlier than it did.
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