Much anticipated by misunderstood pre-teens and nostalgic 20-somethings alike, Fall Out Boy’s sixth studio album, “American Beauty/American Psycho,” debuted on January 20.
“AB/AP” solidifies Fall Out Boy’s transition from the organic pop-punk of their origins to a more modern vision of rock. As a whole, the tracks on “AB/AP” are fairly cohesive.
Gems of the album include the bittersweet summer rock ballad “The Kids Aren’t Alright,” and the invigorating and powerful “Centuries,” as well as the brassy, bold and dangerous “Uma Thurman.” While they range slightly in style, the songs seem to have a collective vision: an anthemic call to the album’s listeners.
My No. 1 criticism of the album is the heavy use of effects. Layered in bulk onto several of the tracks, they give the album an odd, offbeat vibe, almost as though it were poorly mixed.
“Favorite Record” and “Immortals” incorporate a weird robot voice auto-tune effect which is reminiscent of bad early 2000’s pop, and the heavily edited “Novocaine” sounds as though Satan himself is providing background vocals by gargling lava (which, admittedly, is kind of cool).
I appreciate the artistic adventurousness of special effects, but in this case they smother rather than accentuate the band’s strengths. The synth often drowns out the talents of drummer Andy Hurley and guitarist Joe Trohman, as well as disguising the tone and smoothness of vocalist Patrick Stump’s voice.
That being said, I’m particularly impressed with the obvious growth in Stump’s vocal abilities and confidence since Fall Out Boy’s return to the music scene. His vocals are stronger than ever, and when paired with a gorgeous backdrop of catchy punk melodies, they’re the most musically outstanding aspect of the album.
Notably missing, however, are some of the intricate harmonies of previous albums. As in the past, bassist Pete Wentz is responsible for the bulk of the songwriting on “AB/AP.” Most of the lyrics on the album are typical of Wentz’s past work, and while not exactly fresh or original, they provide the dark, offbeat metaphors and misfit-kid anthems we’ve come to love and expect from Fall Out Boy.
I joke about Fall Out Boy’s traditional fanbase of eclectic teens, but in all seriousness, the band creates a niche for kids by providing a creative and emotional outlet as well as a cause to identify with. Early in their career, Fall Out Boy filled this role by emitting an angsty, scream-your-heart-out, pop-punk vibe. Now they’ve switched to a focus on anthems which appeal to the misfit crowd in particular but ultimately are enjoyed by fans of varying ages and backgrounds.
Additionally, in interviews the band has emphasized a changing view of rock and roll. They refer to the album’s futuristic vibe, elements of hip hop and soul and the incorporation of samples as their attempt to contribute to an evolving perception of rock as a genre.
While I can definitely appreciate a hearty dose of disillusioned pseudo-punk, I must say that I like the direction Fall Out Boy’s music has taken. It shows growth and maturity, both musically and emotionally.
Despite some off-putting aspects, “American Beauty/American Psycho” is more cohesive than its predecessor (“Save Rock and Roll,” a good album in its own right) and is greatly encouraging in that it shows Fall Out Boy’s evolution since their triumphant return to the pop/rock scene.
Dedicated fans of the band will adore it no matter what, and newer, more critical listeners will likely find it enjoyable enough.