Album Review: “American Beauty/ American Psycho” by Fall Out Boy

 

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By Isabella Dionne

Fall Out Boy’s last album, released in 2013, was titled Save Rock and Roll. Their latest creation, American Beauty/American Psycho, does quite the opposite, marking the furthest the band has ever strayed from their original emo- and punk-driven sound. With the release of AB/AP, Fall Out Boy takes yet another step away from the punk that skyrocketed them to stardom in From Under the Cork Tree and instead toward the pop that reclaimed their fame in Save Rock and Roll. Regardless of the changing sound and genre, Fall Out Boy still manages to put together some of their most memorable and meaningful work yet in AB/AP.

The album’s first single, “Centuries,” was released in September of 2014. It was an immediate success, coming in at 13 on the Billboard Top 100 and being featured in advertisements and event coverage for both ESPN and WWE. The song’s anthemic tone and inescapable popularity are almost tiringly reminiscent of Save Rock and Roll’s “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark.” Regardless, “Centuries” maintains artistic flair with bassist Pete Wentz’s consistently strong lyrical style as well as its nod to Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner,” sung in both the intro and outro by featured vocalist Lolo.

One month later, the band released “Immortals,” a song written for Disney’s Big Hero 6. Like most songs on the album, the track features a catchy melody and upbeat tone. Unfortunately, it lacks the hard-hitting punch fans had come to expect from Wentz’s lyrics, making it one of the weaker tracks on the album.

“Centuries,” “Immortals,” and the album’s title track, “American Beauty/American Psycho” set listeners up to expect a monotony of synth- and bass drum-filled tracks suited for action film sequences and primetime television advertisements. Fortunately, the release of pop-influenced “American Beauty/American Psycho” on December 15 also brought the release of “The Kids Aren’t Alright” to fans who pre-ordered the album on iTunes. The song takes a step down from the fast-paced hype of the album’s first three releases, allowing listeners to really take in the nostalgia of Wentz’s lyrics, felt strongly in lines like, “Blessed be the boys that time can’t capture” and “Your love is anemic and I can’t believe / That you couldn’t see it coming for me.” The pre-order release provided listeners with the first ballad of the album, and the song is an exceptional example of what the band is capable of without the edge and intensity of the previous singles.

AB/AP’s final single, “Uma Thurman,” was released on January 12. The song was approved by Thurman herself, and references her role in Pulp Fiction–particularly the scene in which she and John Travolta’s character do the twist at a diner–with the line, “She wants to dance like Uma Thurman.” The song also features a twangy guitar part following the chorus, which is instantly reminiscent of Pulp Fiction as well as Kill Bill, in which Thurman played the lead role. The pop-culture references present throughout the song were an excellent move by the band, as the sound and tone of the song appeal to newer audiences while the lyrics and references appeal to older listeners.

The band really hits their artistic stride mid-album with the emotional ballad “Jet Pack Blues.” The impeccable poetry of Wentz’s lyrics paired with the raw emotion in lead singer Patrick Stump’s voice remind fans why they first fell in love with the band: for their ability to write music that sounds pretty on the surface but relates to listeners’ thoughts and emotions on a deeper level. Lines like “Did you ever love her, do you know? / Or did you never want to be alone?” and “She’s singing ‘baby come home’ in a melody of tears / While the rhythm of the rain keeps time” are a constant reminder that romantic, heartbreaking lyrics never fail to win over listeners. That, paired with the somber melody of the song’s chorus, make “Jet Pack Blues” the most memorable non-single of the album. Other notable tracks include “Novocaine” (the lyrics “If you knew, knew what the bluebird sang at you, / You would never sing along” should be explanatory enough) and “Favorite Record,” which features lighter lyrics and an upbeat, indie vibe.

While AB/AP is more or less an extension of the pop-heavy tone set with Save Rock and Roll, the consistent passion and relatability of the album’s lyrics capture and entice both longtime Fall Out Boy fans and casual listeners. It’s thanks to their evolving style that the band can still continue to achieve incredible success in the “survival of the fittest” music industry. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that Fall Out Boy is one of the few still-thriving bands that originally hailed from the emo scene.

American Beauty/American Psycho was released on January 16, 2015.

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