Fall Out Boy Mania Review
By Bethany Rowan Hall.
I’ll be honest from the get-go here: Fall Out Boy have helped me through some really tough times. Their two most recent albums before MANIA were a godsend during my last breakup (there’s nothing quite like scream-lipsyncing “F*CK YOU, YOU CAN GO CRY ME AN OCEAN” repeatedly in the shower to heal a broken heart) and I’ve liked their stuff since I was a kid. In short, I was excited for MANIA, ready to put on my headphones, sit in the dark, and soak in the new music.
Also, two quick notes:
- I first listened to the digital edition of this album, therefore I have reviewed the tracks in that order. It should be noted that the physical edition is different, and apparently ‘correct’, as clarified by Pete Wentz in this interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSMzd1lPWQw
- As Fall Out Boy tend to specialise in speaking to the soul of every angsty teen/inner angsty teen, so I’m picking some choice lyrics from each song to give a flavour of each individual one, in a special segment catchily named “Lyrics Everyone Will Be Getting Terrible Watercolour Tattoos of/Changing Their ‘Bandom’ Tumblr Blog Titles To”.
1) YOUNG AND MENACE
I usually I prefer to avoid album spoilers, but this time around, I accidentally heard Young and Menace before I was able to do my usual listening ritual. However, I don’t think this tainted my experience of the album as a whole at all. There is a beautiful build into the meat of the song—this is a great first track and first single. I am always astonished by how soulful Patrick Stump’s voice is. I can definitely imagine this being remixed to death.
LEWBGTWTo/CTBTBTT: “Kill me twice like my name was Nikki Sixx/I’m just here for the psych assessment”
This one feels a little reminiscent of Centuries from American Beauty/ American Psycho, and it’s worth noting that they both hold similar places and fulfil similar purposes on their respective albums: they both provide a tone change and a slight dip after the opening tracks, as well as both arguably hinging on a strong chorus. Like Centuries, I can see Champion being played at many a large sporting event (though hopefully not as many times) given its similar triumphant and heroic tone. However, despite similarities, the two songs are distinct. Champion is the first place in the album where you begin to see the somewhat more mellow tone of this album in comparison to FOB’s other albums.
LEWBGTWTo/CTBTBTT: “If I can live through this, I can do anything”
3) STAY FROSTY ROYAL MILK TEA
This song picks the pace up a little, sounding almost thunderous and angry in places. It appears to be one of the most political songs on the album, apparently focusing on celebrity culture. Personally, I prefer their other hit song focusing on celebrity culture, America’s Suitehearts from Folie à Deux. This song is the strongest for LEWBGTWTo/CTBTBTT and #relatable lyrics so let’s focus on that:
“The only thing that’s ever stopping me is me”
“Seems like the whole damn world has gone and lost its mind”
“My life was just a killer dream”
“Even at the best of times I’m out of my mind”
“The alcohol never lies, never lies”
4) HOLD ME TIGHT OR DON’T
Regardless of what anyone thinks of the questionable Day of the Dead music video, this song is one of the highlights of the album. It has a really nice, summery feel, and I’m already itching to do the Macarena to it at KRAP. It’s very fun and upbeat, and it has some of the best lyrics on the album. I mean, were we ever friends?
LEWBGTWTo/CTBTBTT: “The distance between us, it sharpens me like a knife”
5) THE LAST OF THE REAL ONES
This song is a beautiful slow build, and the twinkly piano really makes it. The only thing that takes me out of the song is the overuse of the word “you”, but overall, it’s a great track and the absolutely killer chorus saves it. I don’t think you could accuse this album’s songs of sounding ‘samey’ in the way a lot of people feel about some of FOB’s other albums. There are so many different flavours, but with an overall mellow, summery tone.
LEWBGTWTo/CTBTBTT: “I wonder if your therapist knows everything about me”/ ”I’m a collapsing star with tunnel vision, but only for you”
6) WILSON (EXPENSIVE MISTAKES)
This song is delightfully tongue-in-cheek. The whole edgy, Vantablack, Dan Howell “I’ll stop wearing black…” thing is amusing, but also likely to appeal to some of the band’s younger fans who don’t quite get the irony. There’s a touch of filler to this song, but overall, I think it really helps bring the slightly jaded message of the album together.
LEWBGTWTo/CTBTBTT: “I’ll stop wearing black when they make a darker colour”/” I became such a strange shape…from trying to fit in”
This song really plays to Patrick’s vocal strengths. I would advise looking up the isolated vocals recording for this one. However, it does fade into the middle of the album a little.
LEWBGTWTo/CTBTBTT: “If Death is the last appointment then we’re all just sitting in the waiting room”
8) HEAVEN’S GATE
While the gentle, crooner vibe of this song is lovely, I find the ‘give me a boost’ notion a little cringeworthy. This song definitely stands out, though for positive and negative reasons. None of that classic FOB emo edge to be found here. Lyrically, it is a little bit plain in contrast to what you’d usually expect from these lot (or at least from their earlier albums).
LEWBGTWTo/CTBTBTT: “You’re the one habit I just can’t kick”
9) SUNSHINE RIPTIDE (FT. BURNA BOY)
This song feels like Fall Out Boy are doing an impression of something they aren’t. It feels really weird hearing them sing so frankly about ‘pills’ and singing a song that could blend into the charts fairly seamlessly when they’re effectively a bunch of emo dads. Most of their collab tracks tend to be fairly weak (bar Save Rock and Roll’s titular track), and lately they seem to work with other artists with styles that don’t mesh especially well with theirs. While interesting, the songs feel a little weaker as a result. While I would argue that Fall Out Boy have managed to retain the essence of their sound better than most bands who have started to lean on the more pop side of pop-rock as of late (see Train, Maroon 5). Even so, there’s a bit of ‘your weird uncle got drunk at a wedding and told you he smoked a bit of a joint in the back of a van once’ to this song.
LEWBGTWTo/CTBTBTT: The lyrics of this one are all a bit meh. Sorrynotsorry.
10) BISHOPS KNIFE TRICK
A gorgeous, mellow song to gently finish off the album. Not a huge standout track or anything, but it’s not meant to be. I have a soft spot for the more melancholy and piano-laced FOB tracks, though this isn’t a patch on Save Rock and Roll. Can you tell that I really like Save Rock and Roll? However, having this album end on a banger like that would betray the overall feel of the album, I think.
LEWBGTWTo/CTBTBTT: “I’m just a full tank away from freedom”
And that’s MANIA! A largely chilled album with a deceptively chaotic-sounding title. While the album might not be banger after banger… well, it doesn’t need to be. As Stump himself said in a Rolling Stone interview about MANIA, “Do I need another hit in my life? I don’t really care. The only reason to put out a record is if it’s really great. And once you are past the radio-hit stage of your career, that becomes even more important.”
This sentiment definitely shows in the music. The band have more than enough ‘scream until your lungs give out’ hits in their repertoire, arguably too many to comfortably get through during a live show any more. Honestly, I respect them for doing something a little different; as well as their choice to push the album back from a Summer 2017 release to an early 2018 one in order to make sure they were totally happy with it. Wentz said of the scrapped songs: “[they] were trying to serve everybody, but they weren’t going to be compelling to anybody.” The pressure from multiple different sides—fans, their management, the media, etc. must have been difficult to deal with for a huge band like Fall Out Boy. Pleasing everyone is an impossibility for them.
I, for one, am just happy that they are continuing to make music without becoming a parody of themselves or sacrificing elements of their unique sound. Whether that’s my inner nostalgic sixteen-year-old talking… that’s up to you to decide.
If I had to rank the songs:
1) Young and Menace
2) Hold Me Tight or Don’t
3) Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea
4) The Last of the Real Ones
6) Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)
8) Heaven’s Gate + Bishops Knife Trick
9) Sunshine Riptide (ft. Burna Boy)
KRAP will be holding their 12 hour event, KRAP: Karnage, on April 22nd 2pm-2am in the SU. Tickets available now.