Fall Out Boy are evolving, but is this new era a step in the right direction?
American pop-punk/ rock band Fall Out Boy have long been heralded as emo kings for the brilliance that is their earlier albums. Songs that are complex, full of metaphors that resonate with an audience that are growing up, discovering themselves and struggling to meet people’s expectations are just some of the things on offer in ‘From Under The Cork Tree’, ‘Take This To You Grave’ and ‘Infinity on High’.
But after the change in direction that came with ‘Folie a Deux’, a lengthy hiatus, and their two newest albums are they, to borrow lyrics from their own song, ‘growing up or just going down?’
Today they announced an upcoming headline tour, a new album and released a new song entitled ‘Young and Menace’ and I’ll be honest with you all- I don’t like it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for bands evolving. In fact, seeing bands grow over time and change their music styling slightly is one of my favourite things because then their songs and albums become a journey that we, the people listening to, get to take with them.
But there’s something about this new song that I cannot like. Or, actually, several somethings. For a band known for being lyrically gifted, it seems odd to me that the newer songs are so repetitive and almost bland. The depth that we used to see in their songs is barely there, and I doubt I’m the only one to have noticed it. From the genius that we used to associate with the bands lyrics and the way they refused to be rigid in their composition, to the less organic almost formulaic progression that we’ve been given on their latest records, something has been lost. And that something might just be their artistic integrity. (Is that harsh? Maybe it’s a little harsh.)
To make sense of why I think this song is a bit of a let-down I’m going to deconstruct it a little. The first thing is, obviously, the lyrics. I’ll give them this- they aren’t as bad as some of the ones on their previous album (Favourite Record springs to mind) but they still seem to be tailored and manufactured to make the song do well commercially. There’s the introductory verse which is frankly the best part of the entire song, other than the end. Then there’s a bridge which is simple, a chorus which is made worse only by the Alvin and the Chipmunk-esque vocals, and the second verse which just sort of … exists.
The second reason why I just can’t seem to get behind the song is that it seems like a waste. All four members of the band are brilliant musicians, and this new sound is painfully artificial. It really doesn’t showcase their skill. Andy Hurley is a phenomenal drummer but that’s not showcased to the full extent. The guitar is there but the complexity isn’t. Patrick Stump has a great vocal range and yet they’ve played around with it and ruined the experience of hearing him hit the high notes, or the feeling of goose bumps when his voice is low and smooth.
But lastly, the reason I don’t like the sound is because if I didn’t know it was them I wouldn’t recognise it. And whilst other bands change up their sound – Paramore, All Time Low, Panic! At The Disco to name a few- they all retain some core part of their identity in the music. Hayley Williams and her vocals are distinct, Rian Dawson’s drumming and Alex Gaskarth’s voice, Brendon Urie and the unmistakable self-assurance he infuses into each lyric. Each band or artist has something to make them stand out and I think that’s what’s missing from this song.
(That was supposed to be lastly but a little addendum – I think the reason this song evoked such a strong reaction was that this – this changing of sounds, this sell out style, this manufacturing of music? – is happening more often with bands from the same era. And a lot of us just want it to stop.)
Don’t let my view dissuade you though. Listen to the song and when ‘M A N I A’ is released give that a listen too. Make up your own mind and maybe leave a comment or a tweet telling us what you think.