A new year is upon us! And with that, we get a new album to savour in. Fall Out Boy's sixth studio album aptly titled American Beauty/American Psycho will be the first review of 2015. While I haven't done much else since November, it's finally good to be able to review something fresh, so let's jump right in.
Having since gone on to enjoy all of Fall Out Boy's releases (still particularly a little underwhelmed by Infinity on High), I can safely say that expectations were sky-high when I went into this album. A follow-up to their 2013 release, Save Rock And Roll, fans were anticipating this more than anything else. With that, does the album fire on all cylinders?
I've been teetering back and forth with the album entirely since I've heard it a few days ago, to almost 20 listens on repeat upon writing this review. It's definitely a hard album to review considering I'm a fan of the band and when you need to become strict in session when the time comes. Obviously, the review for the predecessor record has definitely a biased view towards it (I'd give it a simple 7/10 if I could re-do it, but I guess not!), so I've decided to fully enhance the review and go full-on with what I'm going to write, rather than stick to my heart. Here goes.
As the successor record, it's easy to compare American Beauty/American Psycho to their previous release because both of them came one after the other. While I digress when it comes to opinions, I truly believe that this album, on first listen, is disappointing when put side by side to Save Rock And Roll. First listens are always jarring, and the album did somewhat okay when it tried to deliver blow after blow. But before we truly chop the record and look into it, let's take a look at the singles.
Centuries, Immortals, the title track, The Kids Aren't Alright (which I have a reservation for) and their new single, Irresistible have all come into foray and the only track that left me appalled was American Beauty/American Psycho. It is a little messy and chaotic on first listen which does seem to be distracting, but with peering listens the song does offer some thrusting drums which I have not heard Andy trash in a long time. Along with that, the synthesisers don't shy away from the spotlight as well. In a way, while the track does have redeeming qualities, I could never really put it on repeat but would not skip in a heartbeat.
Now what comes to mind as really fist-punching, and return to form for this album are the fantastic lyrics penned by Pete Wentz and co. It is so satisfying and gratifying to finally listen to what phrases and sentences the band have come around to since their hiatus, rather than cheap and cheesy throwaways on tracks like Death Valley. Of course there are minorities on this album (none other than Favourite Record), but all in all the lyrics finally do make sense and intertwine perfectly. In the track Jet Pack Blues, the relationship turns sour and as Patrick belts out an amazing chorus, the song tells of a tale where the girl of his dreams is telling him to come out of the dark and "come home". Along the second verse, what strikes as thunderous were the lines: "I've got those jet pack blues/fight of the light tonight and just stay with me/Honey don't you leave". The sincerity and the appreciation are as effective as they were pre-hiatus, and it's so good to have such diversity and augmentation to the songwriting once more.
As always, Patrick's vocals are top notch as is in previous albums, and is no different than it was before. On tracks like Centuries, The Kids Aren't Alright and Irresistible, his high notes are hit well and his falsettos on Novocaine don't seem to become too annoying just like an artist of the past year (I'm looking at you Maroon 5). While that really needs no commending, it's good to hear Andy get some flashy plays with his drums considering he hasn't had much work to do when some songs require electronic drums or stale drum beats. He does fantastic in the album title track as well as Twin Skeleton's.
Now this is where I start to feel as if the production becomes either lightweight, or just too much on tracks like Immortals, Novocaine, Fourth of July or just too little on others like Favourite Record. This, is also the part where the debate of which album is more superior - Save Rock And Roll or American Beauty/American Psycho - and considering that I've looked at them sideways, it's time for the final verdict. There isn't a runaway winner considering I've been a big fan of their previous release and it's really hard to judge.
But still, I've got to be firm. Yes, American Beauty/American Psycho really impressed on all four fronts that when I looked back on the amount of times played for this record, it is a really diminishing record because this album had a lot for everybody. At times, the album shot their previous release off the rails that makes you wonder if the band will ever produce better material in the future. If you liked Save Rock and Roll, you'll like this album. If you're a Fall Out Boy fan, chances are you will be polarised by either the change in direction, sound or production; all of which came at a rapid speed since they went off hiatus. While I am not impressed, there are certain elements in this new record that justified and redeemed itself. Whether it be The Munsters sampled dance groove Uma Thurman, to the guitar-heavy driven Centuries, everything just flows smoothly.
One song in particular, that I left out for a reason, was The Kids Aren't Alright. This is a must-hear single for all to listen to. Not many tracks have impressed me as much as this track and if not for it, this album might have had a cutting edge blow to the score. The track is enthused with vibrant guitar and piano melodies that shines and never becomes dusted. The core whistling throughout the song never annoys at all and the lyrics are an emotional roller-coaster to begin with. "And with the black banners raised as the crooked smiles fade/Former heroes who quit too late/Just wanna' feel up the trophy case again." It was a nostalgia-ridden adventure that leaves me thinking back on some of the fond memories of the past - personal and as a fan of the band. This song could become my favourite track of the band post-hiatus, with Young Volcanoes being a close second.
Favourite Tracks: The Kids Aren't Alright, Jet Pack Blues, Uma Thurman, Novocaine
Least Favourite Tracks: Favourite Record, Fourth of July
It's always good to look back on a band's glory days and truly wonder of their existence now. While American Beauty/American Psycho might not land outside of your playground, it's definitely worth checking out for sure. If anything, this album is a true return to form in every way barring some slight annoyances. Save Rock And Roll may be a step in the right direction, but this album treads previous waters and still flavours it with new Fall Out Boy formula that with rejuvenated lyrical-tinted painting, should become a gander than a gamble for everyone to see.
It's a long review but it's been a fun one!
Benny Ong: Just your regular guy who likes soccer more than most people, and also a little downtime is pretty nice.