Fall Out Boy, ‘American Beauty/American Psycho’ – Album Review
Earlier this month, I was blessed to stand in a crowded, hole-in-the-wall bar near Houston Street in New York City and listen to Pete Wentz, the bassist of Fall Out Boy, discuss the band's approach to their newest album, 'American Beauty/American Psycho.' Although Wentz talked about many things, one specific cluster of thoughts stuck with me for days after the event.
When discussing the new record, Wentz used the metaphor of Fall Out Boy creating fire in the early stages of their career. He added that as the band pushed on, they didn’t want to spend their life sitting around that fire with the mentality of "f--k the wheel, look how cool fire is."
Fall Out Boy walked away from the fire in hopes of creating something new. They didn’t sell out; they didn’t abandon the scene; they haven’t gone soft; they simply decided to make a pop album.
It is what it is.
This isn’t the first time that something like this has happened. Bob Dylan went electric in '65. Green Day signed to a major label in the '90s. Taylor Swift left Nashville for New York in 2014. The debate of artistic freedom versus selling out is as old as music itself. The conversation we are actually having is about fan reaction, not artistic musicality.
Realistically speaking, every artist is ultimately responsible for their sound. As they grow, change, age and evolve as people, so should their tastes and talents. While it is very possible for a band in their 30s to sound like they did in their 20s, it is equally possible for them to no longer want to. Their influences shift as they go from people in bars to people with families. For a fan to expect Fall Out Boy to be in the mindset to recreate 'Take This to Your Grave' more than a decade after its release is not only naive, but borderline irresponsible.
That is where they were then. 'American Beauty/American Psycho' is where they are now.
Let’s pull 'American Beauty/American Psycho' out of the Fall Out Boy catalog for a moment and examine it for what it is; a perfect pop-symphony packed with infectious structures and catchy hooks. The platinum-selling 'Tom’s Diner' is sampled in 'Centuries' and trades Fueled by Ramen street cred for flawless Top-40 creativity. That track is accompanied by the surf guitar-structured 'Uma Thurman' and the potential album standout 'Fourth of July' -- both of which earworm their way into the listener's heart almost instantly.
More important are the tracks that prove that Fall Out Boy has as much right to pack an arena as the Bruno Mars or the Maroon 5s of the world. With a clever whistle and a crooner's best verse, 'The Kids Aren’t Alright' should open doors for fans of Fun. Meanwhile, sleeper track 'Favorite Record' has the potential to become a straight up summer jam.
Miles from the Chicago bar scene, Fall Out Boy are hellbent on taking over the whole damn world. The key to enjoying their journey is simply letting go of the wheel and allowing them to drive.
The success of 'American Beauty/American Psycho' comes down to the listeners' ability to pull their emotions out of their expectations. If you’re looking for a continuation of the albums they’ve already created, the possibility for disappointment is probable. While several of Fall Out Boy’s signatures are intact -- including a handful of witty one-liners -- the new direction of the band is completely undeniable.
As a stand-alone release, 'American Beauty/American Psycho' is not even remotely able to be deemed unsuccessful. Anyone doing so has simply failed to have an open mind.