I know many people who are sick of the whole emo/power pop genre but adore Fall Out Boy…I am one of those people. I’ve always been on the fence about whether I truly love them or not and have yet to own an entire album of theirs. I decided to check out their new record “Folie A Deux” to see if the boys still had it what with all the changes in their life, mostly notably guitarist/bassists Pete Wentz’s marriage and recently becoming a father. I can say that the band definitely explores with some genres and several different time periods, but there is a tendency to fall back on tried and true techniques mixed with a bit of narcissism.
The album has some completely unique and amazing tracks that even people who despise them will enjoy. The best song off the record is “Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown on a Bad Bet.” It has a bluesy/rockabilly type sound that I’ve never heard out of the band and it instantly grips you. The heavy use of instruments outside of a guitar is probably best expressed in this song from the heavy use piano and drums to horns, something I didn’t expect. It also comes off as very big band and in the vein of a show tune, but in a good way. The rockabilly type sound continues on another great track, “I Don’t Care.” While this and several other songs tend to rely on the chanting aspect seen in most power pop songs this one continues the big band theme and has some brilliant lyrics (“The best of us can find happiness in misery”) that you should expect to hear from others. “What a Catch, Donnie” is the last stand-out track on “Folie A Deux” and it deserves to be up there with the greats. A sweet ballad about self acceptance you really get to hear lead singer Patrick Stump’s voice without it being overshadowed with guitars until the chorus. It also exhibits string use that I didn’t expect. Many people have complained about the “best of” ending with cameos from The Academy Is, Gym Class Heroes and Elvis Costello that is self serving to Fall Out Boy. I consider the ending the best part of the song and think it’s a unique gimmick, nothing more.
Other than those three the album is a mishmash of genres and “borrowing” from other time periods that I didn’t gel with. The album also has quite a few tracks that seem to be lifted from their first album “From Under the Cork Tree.” The first track of “Folie A Deux,” a roaring guitar song called “The Disloyal Order of Water Buffalo” is strikingly similar to their past hit “Sugar We’re Going Down.” From Wentz’s heavy guitar licks and Stump’s overbearing vocals at times, I really thought I was listening to a different album. The song does have some good lyrics but the chanting off this first track becomes repetitive in later ones. A later song “America’s Suitehearts” also sounds like “Sugar” and it becomes really obvious at this point. With a slower tempo and an 80’s hair metal like intro I noticed they seemed to borrow from Queen in the middle of the song, something most kids won’t notice.
After that the group continues to borrow. Whether it’s a direct lift for the song “West Coast Smoker” (I cannot for the life of me know what song they borrowed but I know it) or more of a influence like having a very “Wipe Out”-like beginning in “Coffee’s for Closers” there’s nothing that sounds unique after awhile. There is a 1980s synthesizer song (Tiffany Blews), a Nirvana inspired song (W.A.M.S) and a Kinks inspired song (27) but nothing inherently Fall Out Boy. This was a disappointment since the best songs mentioned above sounded so unique. After awhile I stopped listening and was just looking for the types of songs they were borrowing from.
Overall: “Folie A Deux” is a strong album, but it’s highly produced and the group relies on old tracks and old genres. Aside from “Headfirst Slide,” “What a Catch,” and “I Don’t Care,” I only mildly enjoyed everything else. I give the album a 3/5.