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ALBUM REVIEW: Though divisive, MAN I A’s quality leaves more to be desired from Fall Out Boy

“This is a Fall Out Boy that has risked everything they’ve known to step out of it’s own path to create art completely different than anything they’ve ever done.”

So let’s just get this out of the way beforehand. Since their comeback from hiatus, the clear progression towards a “pop”-based sound has been the prerogative for Fall Out Boy. Evident in their returning effort of Save Rock and Roll, and its follow-up American Beauty//American Psycho, the Chicago legends have no intention of turning back.

Let’s also get this straight, the guys in Fall Out Boy are never going to create a record with the pop-punk base that encompass Take This To Your Grave, From Under the Cork Tree or Infinity on High. Though fans and critics seem to complain about this obvious fact in the trajectory of the band’s career, an inability to look beyond the “old” Fall Out Boy disallows the listener to experience the quality that is their recent work.

Save Rock and Roll was a good record, American Beauty//American Psycho was an even better record; and now MAN I A has pushed the boundary even further away from their starting point, but it is indeed a quality record. But you may not see that if you’re stuck in 2005.

Five of the album’s 10 tracks have been release prior to MAN I A dropping on Jan. 19, which is highlighted by the track “Young and Menace” which seemingly came out of left field, and is perhaps the song that provides most contrast on Fall Out Boy’s career. The more down-to-earth “Champion” and “The Last of the Real Ones” followed.

Easily the worst song on MAN I A, “Hold Me Tight Or Don’t,” is currently charting on pop radio, despite having a lack of catchy chorus, and hard to get through verses. If there’s one issue I have with MAN I A, it’s that this song was included. The lyrical content makes me cringe, especially the chorus that says:

“Another day goes by, so hold me tight. Hold me tight, or don’t. Oh no, no this isn’t how our story ends. So hold me tight. Hold me tight, or don’t.”

Pete Wentz is far more capable of writing a much better chorus than this, and we know this because we’ve seen it throughout the band’s career, and we see their songwriting quality on cuts throughout this record.

“Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)” is one of the most enjoyable on MAN I A, the lyrical chops that I just referenced above makes a comeback on the final single shared prior to the album’s release. What made Fall Out Boy legendary is their willingness to push themselves lyrically, finding a way to portray feelings in words that no others would think to use. This redemptive quality returns in “Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)”:

“If we hadn’t done this thing, I think I’d be a medicine man. So I could get high on my own supply whenever I can. I became such a strange shape, such a strange shape from trying to fit in.”

The singles have had enough time to breathe on their own before the release of MAN I A, but what brings Fall Out Boy’s seventh studio album back from the edge are it’s non-single tracks.

This is something that has been consistent throughout their career’s. The non-single tracks throughout the bands entire discography entirely outshines the ones that have been released to the radio.

“Sophomore Slump or Comeback of the Year” is a better song than “Dance, Dance”; “”Don’t You Know Who I Think I Am?” is a better song than “Thnks fr th Mmrs”;  “The (Shipped) Gold Standard” is a better song than “American Suitehearts.” So on, and so forth.

MAN I A is no exception to this trend.

“Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea” is the most assailing song on the album with lyrics like:

“Some princes don’t become kings. Even at the best times I’m out of my mind. You only get what you grieve. Are you smelling that shit? Are you smelling that shit? Eau de résistance.”

And even more whimsical:

“Seems like the whole damn world went and lost its mind. And all my childhood heroes have fallen off or died. Fake tears, we are living fake tears, but the alcohol never lies, never lies.”

Fall Out Boy performing at Little Caesar’s Arena (Photo: Robert Sherman)

Further, “Church” and “Heaven’s Gate” are in contention for best track on the album. The songwriting, the composition, the lyricism and Patrick Stump’s naturally soulful voice combine nicely into the perfect fusion of Fall Out Boy’s brand of pop.

“Church” brings back what I love most about Fall Out Boy, which is the use of creative lyrics that makes you think, and words or phrases that you may even miss a few listens into the track. The lyricism on “Church” brings the listener back to how lyrics were written primarily on Infinity On High, but combines them sonically with the new-age Fall Out Boy.

“l love the world but I just don’t love the way it makes me feel. Got a few more fake friends, and it’s getting hard to know what’s real. And if death is the last appointment, then we’re all just sitting in the waiting room. I am just a human trying to avoid my certain doom.”

Easily my favorite song on MAN I A, “Heaven’s Gate,” slows the pace of the record briefly, which begins with Stump belting out the first word, quickly becoming the most complete and orchestrated effort on the record. The guitar-led cut shows the raw emotion that this band is still capable of producing.

MAN I A finishes off on a strong note, with “Bishops Knife Trick,” a song about being stuck in yourself, and not being able to find your way back, closing out the album with enough staying power to make it a quality, yet divisive, effort from Fall Out Boy.

Being the shortest album in their discography with only ten songs, the quality of the tracks on the latter part of the album leaves the listener desiring more of the “new” Fall Out Boy. This is a Fall Out Boy that has risked everything they’ve known to step out of it’s own path to create art completely different than anything they’ve ever done.

And they nailed it.

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