Album Review: “Mania” by Fall Out Boy
By Vaughan Jones
As the title of this article suggests, I didn’t have much hope for this album. After their last album was an overly-synthesized mix of soulful Patrick Stump singing, and the Munsters theme song, I was starting to think Fall Out Boy had lost that From Under the Cork Tree magic. After hearing EDM-influenced single after EDM-influenced single off of MANIA prior to release, I began worrying that it’d have the same problems as American Beauty/American Psycho. Now that the album is out, I can confidently say I was correct.
My main problem with this album is that there are moments, but not songs. Fall Out Boy has always been about having moments in their songs. The muted strums before the chorus of “Sugar We’re Goin Down,” the quiet strumming before the chorus of “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark,” and even, to a lesser extent, the guitar progression in “Uma Thurman.” Those moments are energizing and entertaining, but the songs they’re in also have love put into them. With M A N I A, Fall Out Boy seems like they were so obsessed with capturing magic moments within the songs that they forgot to actually write good songs around them. It’s like listening to EDM music. There are “drops” in songs that give you payoff for the buildup, but are you really enjoying the build up?
There is some good to be said about the album, though. Even though the background has changed, Patrick Stump’s voice is still on full display and just as impressive as in 2003. His amazing vocal talent pretty much saves this album. I know I certainly wouldn’t have listened to it without Stump at the helm. Some of the songs are catchy, despite the techno influence, and the line, “I’ll stop wearing black when they make a darker color,” definitely got a good laugh out of me, showing that Pete Wentz’s lyrics didn’t take a backseat.
I hate to be that guy, but this album makes me miss old Fall Out Boy. Other bands from that era have managed to maintain relevance, even with a style change, like Panic! At the Disco. But Panic!’s style change works, and Fall Out Boy’s doesn’t. I don’t pick up a Fall Out Boy album to listen to EDM backbeats, I pick up their albums to listen to rock guitar, and a drum kit, with one of the most talented rock singers of the modern era.
I’ve enjoyed Fall Out Boy’s music for a few years now, but I started listening to them in high school. To really get a strong opinion on M A N I A from somebody with a different perspective than my own, I went to my friend Nicole, a long-time fan of Fall Out Boy and a self-proclaimed scene aficionado. In an unsurprisingly long email, she sent me all her thoughts on the album. The opening paragraph speaks volumes:
I have been a huge fan of Fall Out Boy since I first got into them in the 8th grade, and even before then I remember singing along to ‘Sugar,…’ and ‘America’s Suiteheart’ in the car when I was seven or eight years old. My favorite album by FOB is From Under the Corktree, their second album, and probably their most punk styled album. But I am a fan of many music genres, including pop and electronic/ dance music, so when Fall Out Boy came back from hiatus with ‘Save Rock and Roll’ and later ‘American Beauty/American Psycho’, I loved most of the tracks off of both albums and have completely embraced their ever changing, ‘modern/mainstream with a flair’ sound. This being said- ‘MANIA’ is exactly how it sounds. Chaotic, manic, filled to the brim with clashing ideas and loud energetic noise that can be taken as abrasive, and leave you feeling like ‘…..what the f—k was that?’.
She goes on to discuss the lyricism of the album, citing the lines “I know this whole damn city thinks it needs you, but not as much as I do,” and “I wonder if your therapist knows everything about me,” as well as “Just tell me I’m the only one, even if it’s not true.” Those lyrics “really hit (her), which is what (she) looks for in a Fall Out Boy song. Pete’s iconic way with words is something that shines through no matter how pop or punk the band sounds.” She praises the tracks “Last of the Real Ones” and “Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea” for the lyricism and heavier punk/metal guitar styles.
But even though those songs are of good quality, the rest of the album, in a hardcore Fall Out Boy fan’s opinion, is “by far, easily, the worst Fall Out Boy album”. Nicole said that for her taste and her opinion, she thought the album was good, but albums like From Under the Cork Tree are great. The lyrics sound like they were written “begging for 14 year olds to put them on their angsty black and white Tumblr blogs and horribly designed merch.” When this criticism is coming from a big fan of yours, you know you’ve divided a fan base. The reviews from big names like Rolling Stone and Variety have been mixed, but the consensus is that M A N I A is not a favorited album in Fall Out Boy’s discography. I’m incredibly disappointed that this album missed the mark, and if this is Fall Out Boy’s style for the rest of their tenure as musicians, I’ll probably just stick to listening to From Under the Cork Tree.
Favorite Track: Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)
Least Favorite Track: Sunshine Riptide