By D.A. Dellechiaie
BU News Service
The problem with most pop music is that it has an expiration date. If you’ve ever had to spend a lot of time with a one-dimensional person, you know what I’m talking about. That’s sadly the fate of Fall Out Boy in our post-post-post-post-post-post-modern age.
“M A N I A” is Fall Out Boy’s first album in three years. It doesn’t feel that long ago since the last one was released because “Uma Thurman” and “Centuries” from “American Beauty/American Psycho” have been playing non-stop on the radio since 2015. “Uma Thurman” and “Centuries” aren’t exactly evergreen classics, but they are catchy.
Fall Out Boy probably thinks their album is like the first definition of mania: Mental illness marked by periods of great excitement or euphoria, delusions, and overactivity. However their album suffers from the other definition of mania: “An excessive enthusiasm or desire; an obsession.”
“M A N I A” also suffers from problems similar to those found in two other recent releases: “Villains” by Queens of the Stone Age and “Culture” by Migos. “Villains” sounds like one long repetitive song, and “Culture” is a collection of minimalist singles. Fall Out Boy managed to do a bad combination — they took the bad aspects from both of these albums and made them into something worse: an album of repetitive singles.
“M A N I A” starts out with “Young and Menace,” which sounds like a high school band’s attempt at prog rock played through a speaker run over by Justin Bieber’s tour bus. The song sets the tone for the rest of the album much like an overture: lots of EDM rock. Lots and lots of EDM rock.
EDM rock bands take the narrative structure (tension building verses and explosive choruses) and the consistent bass of EDM music and add lyrics and some instruments. Some is the key word. I kept wondering while listening how Fall Out Boy was going to perform this live. Are they just going to walk on stage, have a DJ cue up the back track and have the musicians stand there while Patrick Stump sings along? Furthermore, with all the voice distortion, is he even going to sing?
Some could defend this album production by referring to it as a concept album, but “M A N I A” isn’t a concept album, unless assorted human emotions and banal conflicts can be considered a concept.
I’m not even sure I can review this album properly, and it’s the album’s own damn fault. I can’t tell any of the songs apart. I have started writing about one song to only realize upon a third listen that it was another song I was thinking about. Yes, I have listened to this album at least five times. Five times.
“Champion” is nothing more than a remix of “Centuries.” “Heaven’s Gate” sounds beautiful when you first listen to it. You are pleasantly surprised that there isn’t EDM on the track. Then you listen to it again and hear the dweebie and inconsistent lyrics.
“And if I don’t make it on the list
Would you sneak me a wristband?”
The chorus: “Give me a boost over heaven’s gate
I’m gonna need a boost
‘Cause everything else is a substitute for your love.”
The bridge: “You’re the one habit I just can’t kick” repeated over and over again.
The lyrics aren’t “surrealistic or experimental” they are a lump of cliches tied together. The lead singer’s nice voice manages to hide the weakness of lyrics for about one listen. The end of the preceding song “Church” (also loaded with confusing and cheaply used religious imagery) sounds less like a transition and more like a reminder that the next song is going to sound basically the same.
Dear Fall Out Boy,
I’m not going to mince my words. I don’t want you to return to your roots. Most critics and your old fans probably want you to return to making angsty pop punk. I don’t. I believe in progress. I also believe you guys can actually make good music. But “M A N I A” is a step in the wrong direction. Not just a step in the wrong direction, it is a step into a live construction site.
Please spend the next three years, while the radio DJs are trying to drill “M A N I A” into our heads, making good music. Try playing your songs acoustically and you’ll understand my critique about EDM rock. If you are going to take three years to make another album, make it something worth listening to and not a 35 minute ballad to Skrillex.
P.S. this postscript is for the readers. Not you Fall Out Boy. Get back in the studio. I am adopting a new rating system for my reviews.
5: Excellent. Buy it NOW.
4: Good, but not worth a purchase right away.
3: Only worth buying if it’s on sale.
2: It might be worth your time spent but not your money.
1: Ugh. Just ugh.
0: The person who made this album should leave the music business and erase their work from the face of the earth.
“M A N I A” is a ⅖ album.