by Noah Sunshine
Fall Out Boy’s new album, American Beauty/American Psycho truly did something wonderful for me — after perhaps 10 years of growing awareness in the music scene, I found something I had been looking for off-and-on for the entire decade. Unfortunately, what I found had nothing to do with Fall Out Boy but instead one of the tracks they sampled (“Tom’s Diner,” a haunting 80’s folk track by Suzanne Vega) whose chorus remained just outside of my capability to place until I heard it in FOB’s new single “Centuries.”
I wish more of American Beauty/ American Psycho affected me, but the iconic pop-punk band’s attempt at crossing genre lines felt more like a “look at me, I’m still relevant!” cry than a natural progression of their sound. Just a year ago they recruited the talent and brand power of 2 Chainz to propel “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)” into the Top 40, so perhaps that’s a success, but not the kind old fans that bought From Under the Cork Tree particularly care about.
“Centuries” appears to be the headlining single if we go by mere radio play, but its sound is frankly a bit confusing. Featuring samples from aforementioned “Tom’s Diner” and a bit of Motley Crue clash in a folky, punky, hair-bandy pile that doesn’t sound bad, but it’s not the song I would pick to remember for centuries. The song I found truly out of place instead was “Jet Pack Blues.” I’ve listened to the album and still can’t figure out if it sounds like Florida-Georgia Line or the Backstreet Boys, with its equal parts boy-band lyrics and country tune pieced together with electric guitar and bass.
The album isn’t without its own victories, of course; FOB put together an interestingly poppy arrangement in “Uma Thurman.” Guitars reminiscent of an old surf medley and a return to their angsty girl-centric ballads make for a song indicative of what they perhaps were going for originally: a genre-blending hit for new and old fans. It won’t ever be a “Sugar, We’re Going Down,” but I could see putting it on an iPod and not skipping it when it came on.
If you like Fall Out Boy, you’ll probably still enjoy the album, partly for the familiar whine of frontman Patrick Stump and partly for new track “Uma Thurman,” but newer ears will find the 2014 venture just a bit unexciting, incomplete, and confused with itself to be appreciated for the music alone. American Beauty/American Psycho attempted to take the band in a new direction, but it ended up more like that one Lil Wayne rock album than the jazz/punk/reggae blockbuster that was The Clash’s London Calling. The pop-culture sphere has already seen too much of Pete Wentz in recent years, depending on who you ask, but it’s looking like it’s seen enough of Fall Out Boy as a whole as well.
Senior Noah Sunshine is a contributing writer. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.