American Beauty/American Psycho review by Fall Out Boy

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  • Released: Jan 20, 2015
  • Sound: 5
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 5
  • Reviewer's score: 6 Neat
  • Users' score: 5.1 (52 votes)
Fall Out Boy: American Beauty/American Psycho
5

Sound — 5
It didn't take long for Fall Out Boy to establish their legacy - beginning as yet another 21st-century post-hardcore/pop-punk/emo band, their second album, "From Under the Cork Tree," struck seminal gold for the genre and scene. After that, Fall Out Boy were essentially unstoppable, holding the colloquial title of champions of pop-punk/emo from then on. But as the albums that followed "...Cork Tree" hinted, Fall Out Boy were urging to be more than just the titans of Warped Tour

Several years and one hiatus later, Fall Out Boy went back into the studio to make their fifth album, "Save Rock and Roll," which touted the band's newly-configured pop-rock style unapologetically. It was expected that the majority of Fall Out Boy's dedicated fanbase would stick with the band when they got out of the pop punk/emo pond and made a big splash into the pop/arena rock pond. As for those with no Fall Out Boy rosaries, the change was jarring to say the least, and the branching out in sound treaded a thin line between coordinated exploration and aimless wandering.

Now, with their sixth album, "American Beauty/American Psycho," Fall Out Boy's mission to make catch-all contemporary rock is still underway, and once again, they're playing around with the variety of sounds they include in that amalgamation - the opening "Irresistible" and the penultimate "Immortals" are both sonically influenced by hip-hop, "Novocaine" is a gritty funk-rocker, and they have some fun with vocoders in "Favorite Record." Granted, these twists in sound aren't as jackknifing as the style shifts found in "Save Rock and Roll," but Fall Out Boy ended up concentrating that "genre clusterf--k" mentality into one song, "Uma Thurman," which juggles between sounding like a standard Fall Out Boy radio rocker, a Maroon 5 pop song, and then further bewilders by shoving in samples of the theme song from retro-era TV show "The Munsters." That's not the only case of integral sampling - "American Beauty/American Psycho" has Pete Wentz riffing on his bass opposite of guitar samples from Motley Crue's "Too Fast For Love," though this sampling concept may not only tick off classic rock fans, but it also unflatteringly highlights the paltry amount of instrument-playing in Fall Out Boy's new style. But perhaps you can chalk it up to experimenting in sound and give them a pass.  

However, the overbearing problem with "American Beauty/American Psycho" is that despite the continued attempts at experimenting in their sound, things still suffer from compositional homogeneity - this not only stems from the narrow sound characteristics of arena rock, but from Fall Out Boy's now-manic obsession with writing catchy songs, which has now reached critical mass. Fall Out Boy have never had a problem writing a golden single for each of their albums, and their ability to make a damn catchy topline is near-superhuman. But while "Centuries" has already accomplished being this album's catchiest anthem, Fall Out Boy try making every song on the album the catchiest anthem on the album (even the more downbeat cuts like "The Kids Aren't Alright" and "Jet Pack Blues"). Like a Miss America Pageant, every track on the album has been primped to be the most attractive - from big synth backing and nicotine-esque beats of peppy hi-hats and claps, to infectious singalong choruses and harmonies - but when each track stands side by side sculpted in the same fashion, nothing truly stands out in the end.

Lyrics — 8
One of Pete Wentz's final lyrics (as sung by vocalist Patrick Stump) on the last album "Save Rock and Roll" were in regards to Fall Out Boy's return and as direct about it as could be: "I only plugged in to save Rock and Roll." Funny how that one line of (self-aggrandizing) culture commentary could infuriate Fall Out Boy haters more than the dozens of emo lyrics Wentz was primarily writing in the past. But with that, the culture commentary and criticism of the music industry continues in "American Beauty/American Psycho." Wentz has already given the full scoop about how "Centuries" is another dose of his (self-aggrandizing) commentary on the music industry, and how Fall Out Boy's legacy will be everlasting due to their lack of conformity (certainly, many are foaming at the mouth to debate that claim). Wentz doesn't stop there, and snipes in the general direction of other bands in the scene - alluding to past-their-prime bands hoping to get a second wind in "The Kids Aren't Alright" ("former heroes who quit too late/who just wanna fill up the trophy case again") and young, trendy bands as opportunists in "Novocaine" ("cast them out 'cause this is our culture/these new flocks are nothing but vultures").

But even with how entertaining Wentz's culture commentary is, emo lyrics will always be his bread and butter, and with his pen primarily inking those cynically-in-love lyrics again in "American Beauty/American Psycho," even the "old-school only" fans of Fall Out Boy can rejoice. There's more or less a cohesive story throughout the "battlefield of love" subject matter of the narrator and his can't-quit-you romance with a woman - going from confessions of his addiction to the mutually abusive and toxic relationship in "Irresistible" and "Uma Thurman," to reminiscing about the genuinely good times they had together in "Fourth of July" and "Favorite Record," to the devil-may-care declaration for one last fling in "Immortals" to the inevitable relapse of emotional obliteration in the finale of "Twin Skeletons (Hotel in NYC)."

Overall Impression — 5
Fall Out Boy may have left the pop-punk/emo sound they've already conquered in search of something bigger, but in the pond of arena rock, the general sound being reached for is just as narrow, if not more so. In light of this, their hopeful solution to breaking that mold of arena rock is to summon the unexpected. But despite the number of sonic curveballs they throw, it doesn't remedy the "anthemitis" that "American Beauty/American Psycho" contains. The real variance that was needed on the album were some real gear-changes (some real ballads, maybe even a couple raw and brooding rock songs), because when every song on the album is trying to be a stadium-rousing anthem, the only result that's bound to come of it is the music equivalent of a caffeine crash. The saving grace for the album is the lyrical content, which is thankfully a level above the music in terms of feeling genuinely articulate. Had the lyrics been of similar empty rhetoric as the compositions, though, and "American Beauty/American Psycho" would have been a total bust.

32 comments sorted by best / new / date

    fras1788
    First off, I'd just like to say that from 2005-2008-ish you wouldn't have found a bigger fan of FOB than myself. I saw them live twice before they got wildly popular. They are a band full of musical talent, and the members in the band have great tastes in music, and you could hear it reflected in their old albums. They are a band that you can tell has been influenced by classic punk, and classic rock and they added their own "pop" flair to it. I did not care for "Save Rock N' Roll" I liked maybe 1 or 2 songs from the album. Infinity on High definitely had its moments (decent album) and Folie' a Deux even had a couple of track that I could stomach. FOB is doing nothing but alienating the true fans, and wasting their talents and trading that in for the "electric drum" sounds of modern pop. I grew up in the era where pop/punk was what I listened to, and to see them go to PURE POP makes me sick. I know they made a heavy album "PAX AM DAYS" but that was more dedicated to those that enjoyed the 70's and 80's punk rock scene...(which I respect and like a few songs, but Im not HUGE FAN OF) Why couldn't they make an album like "Take this to your Grave??" for the fans? And then make a pop album ? I feel sorry for the drummer and guitarist in the band, as you can barely hear them playing on these last 2 albums. They are both very talented too...its very sad.
    Fishmania
    I have to agree with you 100%. I grew up on pop/punk, and even though now my taste is much more progressive and technical (listen to White Man's Moccasins by umphrey's mcgee) I still have a soft spot for old FOB. I'll never forget the first time one of my friends showed them to me, Where Is Your Boy Tonight and all that, I was hooked instantly as I was coming off of my most recent New Found Glory binge (oh 90's music, how hilarious it is looking back) and immediately bought From Under the Cork Tree and Take This to Your Grave back when people actually bought music. For my 16-year-old brain it couldn't get any better than that, mainly because I hadn't delved into any music made before I was born, but regardless the catchy riffs, lyrics, and quick timing got me good. I also moderately enjoyed a song or two from Infinity on High (which I also bought), but after listening to it a bunch of times the feeling faded, and I had to move on. Everything after that was completely choreographed by their marketing and promo team. There were told to sell out, just as Metallica was told, in order to reel in the larger fan base of people on the outskirts of music. People who just want to sing along. From Metallica's insane "And Justice For All" to the radio-friendly Enter Sandman they gained exponentially more notoriety and obviously radio play (I'm not saying I don't like Enter Sandman, I'm just using it to show the progression). The thing I don't get about FOB is that they ALREADY had super catchy riffs and choruses, so why they chose to sell out so hard is beyond me. They're basically a punk Bon Jovi at this point. It's terribly sad. When Patrick came out with that solo album I wanted to punch my own face and that was when I knew for sure it was over. I haven't listened to the old FOB in quite a while but I'm sure if I did I would still appreciate the compositions and delivery. It was unique(ish) at least. Oh well, I guess I'll go listen to some Lateralus and smoke a bowl. Nice.
    fras1788
    Well touche' I completely agree with what you just said. Maybe you can give me some suggestions on a bunch of other things to listen to. Im still a huge pop/punk fan to this day but there's not much current stuff that i enjoy. I'm a huge fan of NFG, and FOB. I'm the type of person that likes just about every genre or music. I like everything from rap, to rock, to classic rock, old and new metal, (not numetal, although i did have a phase in 1999) to blues to punk and even some pop i can stomach. It just really hurts to know that FOB is talented, but have blatantly sold out. Which I'm sure many Metallica fans felt that way too. At least Metallica still used instruments when they "sold out" and at least they have a few songs that would remind the fans that they can still thrash. ..Point being, this new FOB album is full of synth, and Computer Generated Trumpets, and it is really such a turn off. I listen to old FOB all the time, and you would still appreciate the delivery for sure. I still do. Of course its probably a combination of the delivery and the nostalgia. Have a great day Fishmania. Great chatting with you.
    Kameliasz
    Wow. That's for sure one of the best UG reviews I've read, if not THE best. Also, it coincides with my opinion about AB/AP. Fantastic delivery, Mr Mendez
    eGraham
    Two great movies. That's all I have to add.
    Baby Joel
    you would say that you'd also be wrong
    eGraham
    You would say this. You'd also be wrong.
    Baby Joel
    wow what an original response eGraham wouldn't expect anything less from someone who actually thinks American Psycho is a 'great movie'.
    travislausch
    I really didn't like this band much until I heard their PAX AM sessions EP that was released not too long ago. It was the total antithesis of this slick pop-rock, just raw simple punk rock. If they had released an entire LP worth of that, I'd have bought it.
    dominiquep12
    I do agree this album isn't what I wanted it to be, but I really liked Save Rock and Roll.
    Chief&Bones
    People always get surprised when Fall Out Boy's sound changes, but like tbh, can you show me two of their albums that sound like eachother??
    Chief&Bones
    besides like Grave and FUTCT, although FUTCT did have much more Pop oriented hooks
    ColdHeartedHero
    Agree with that one person, died after From Under the Cork Tree, They went from instrumentdriven music with vocals to vocal-driven minimal instrumentplaying music. Drop the anthem bullshit and go back to writing music youre good at. If that doesnt fit the scene today, move on. There are other new bands who deserve a chance to shine in this genre (I know none, just giving benefit of the doubt)
    siamesedream777
    They died after From Under the Cork Tree. That one and Take this to your grave are their master pieces.
    Butthead
    I'll be honest, I thought Infinity On High had it's moments.
    culley96
    Agreed. Take This to Your Grave and From Under the Cork Tree are great all the way through. Infinity on High and Folie a Duex are about 50/50. Save Rock and Roll and AB/AP are just shit, IMO.
    kashmar88
    In my opinion, Centuries was the single worst song to come out in 2014. At least for the songs that I heard (and there were plenty of awful songs).
    craaig
    FOB died at the hiatus, in my opinion. They should've at least changed name or something for these last 2 albums.
    taytay8b
    This album isn't great but isn't bad either. It has some really great moments and some really weak ones in my opinion. It feels and sounds like they're almost scared of becoming culturally irrelevant. But, you've gotta give them props for literally having one of the greatest comeback stories of the past few years. Overall its not a bad outting, a solid 6/10 for me. I preferred Save Rock And Roll a lot more actually.
    Vash_15
    "former heroes who quit too late/who just wanna fill up the trophy case again" Ironic, considering this describes Fall Out Boy and Wentz himself pretty damn well.
    vppark2
    Alright album. Def a step up from the very meh SRAR. Also, I want to know other people's opinions on their tour with Wiz Khalifa and Hoodie Allen. While, a very weird choice, honestly a good marketing choice to draw in some more fans.
    RichieJovie
    Wow, lots of people who don't like them commenting without listening to it. Standard.
    jgsb2001
    Even though I disagree with a lot of the reviewer's opinions, this review was well written and very thoughtful. Big plus on the comparison at the end between punk-pop/emo and arena rock. In regards to the comment concerning sonic curveballs and the album being like a caffeine crash . . . I can say that I agree only if you've listened to the album a handful of times or so. It took me quite some time to digest Save Rock and Roll because of its seemingly hectic pace and homogeneity. Each song literally sounded the same to me for the first month. But once I knew where the songs were going, they slowed down and made more sense. But I get your point, and it's well taken. I do believe FOB will return to the sound that initially defined them, so I wouldn't lose hope if you're an 'old school' fan. Either way, I've loved every FOB album and this is no different. Good review, Mr. Mendez.
    pinesylvanray
    Yeah, they will be remembered for centuries as the poster-child for generic pop rock. IMO, their only listenable material is from their first three albums, and even then, Take This to Your Grave is their only good album. Still, YMMV.