Sound — 6
Love them or hate them, Fall Out Boy wrote a couple of hyper-infectious pop-punk early on in their career. It's easy to hate a media whore like Pete Wentz but the combination of his snarky lyrics and Patrick Stump's candy-coated vocal melodies made for some guilty-pleasure listening. As the band's profile has risen, they've slowly shed the pop-punk tendencies of their first two albums and opened up their sound to a host of new influences. On last year's Infinity On High the Chicago combo even brought in R&B hitmaker Babyface to lend his touch to the proceedings. If that doesn't give you a hint of what they were up to, nothing will. On Folie Deux Fall Out Boy take their pop aspirations even further. So if you gave up on the group after their last album, this one isn't going to bring you back. The list of collaborators says it all. Lil Wayne, Pharrell Williams, and even Blondie's Deborah Harry make appearances never adding anything worthwhile enough to warrant their presence here. Tiffany Blews features a rap from Lil Wayne but it comes off like a failed moment of experimentation that it does as anything worthwhile. Even Elvis Costello's guest spot on the clumsily titled What a Catch, Donnie doesn't save the song from being a complete trainwreck. On this one, the band tries taking the ballad approach but the bloated arrangement suffocates the track in the end. Actually, most of the album is held back by its own inflated production ideas.
Lyrics — 7
Despite Folie Deux's many failures; Stump still delivers the goods on his end in the vocal department. Unfortunately the synthetic and overstuffed production values often squish his voice leaving you longing for acoustic versions of many of these songs. But the frontman manages to squeeze through some inspired work here. His honeyed vocals on "Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes reminds you why a big part of FOB's success has been his memorable melody lines. He has complete command over his higher register and uses it to powerful effect throughout the album like in the chorus to the aforementioned What a Catch, Donnie. In terms of the lyrics, Wentz brings his A game. His wordplay is as engaging and biting as ever. He has Stump sing Does your husband know the way that the sunshine gleams from your wedding band, on Headfirst Slide into Cooperstown on a Bad Bet creating the kind of line teenaged girls will be quoting on their MySpace profiles in the process. So while the album misses the mark on many levels, the singing and lyrics aren't the culprits here.
Overall Impression — 6
Producer Neal Avron commits ProTool overkill on Folie Deux and while FOB were aiming for the rafters in terms of commerciality, it still sucks the life out of the material here. Joe Trohman and Stump's guitars sound like they are coming out of army of Line 6 Pods instead of actual amplifiers. The guitars, and the bass and drums for that matter, are the victims of oversaturation and at this point in the game you would think a veteran like Avron would know better. Everything just sounds overblown and processed. This overtly digital production style might work for say, an Akon or Britney Spears album but it fails here. A touch of imperfection here and there would have done the record good. Look, there's no doubt the band are great at what they do but there's something to say about knowing your strengths and honing in on them. Like their label mates, Panic At The Disco, Fall Out Boy should focus on their infectious melodies more and lay off of the grandiose production values. While both Stump and Wentz once again prove they are forces to reckon with, they also show us here that they need the right person behind the mixing board to help them edit themselves. Time will tell if this album sells the kinds of numbers the band obviously is shooting for but here's to hoping they revisit the simpler, streamlined approach of their older material next time out.