Hey, did you hear? Fall Out Boy released an album with a funky French album title. What’s up with that? Their third major label release, Folie à Deux, harnesses the band’s darker, more experimental side musically without sacrificing one shred of the sing-along choruses that shot them to stardom. As fans scramble to Google to figure out what the title means, here’s the short version. Did Pete Wentz, Pat Stump, and the gang spend too much time imitating hipsters and thumbing through French dictionaries at Starbucks? Nah. Simply put, folie à deux is a “madness shared by two,” when two people develop the same delusional disorder due to a close relationship with the other. The more you know…
Despite a lukewarm fan reaction to the lead single, “I Don’t Care,” it is part of a hard-hitting three-song intro to Folie, an intense joyride through some of the catchiest hooks you’ll hear all year. “Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes” is a potential single choice, with its carefree chorus just bursting at the seams to invade the airwaves. “I Don’t Care” opens with an intro somewhere between boogie-woogie and “Tainted Love.” The album’s lead single seems to nod at listeners’ intense love-hate relationship of the band, pointing out that as long as people talk, the band continues to thrive. “She’s My Winona” is the first track that the band’s lead singer Patrick Stump really gets to wail, showing that he is no limited-range pop punk vocalist. The song is a bit “whoa-oh” heavy and repetitive, but still not particularly disappointing. In fact, the next four songs all manage to leave a lasting impact on listeners, with swirling hooks from “America’s Suitehearts” and “The (Shipped) Gold Standard,” while “Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown on a Bad Bet” is a moody track with several tempo changes, fusing shadowy funk and piano interludes. This is the most musically inspired we have seen Fall Out Boy as a band, and those expecting a (no longer sophomore) slump this time around will have to wait a bit longer.
Take This to Your Grave is a distant memory as the band has traded eff-you songs for flippant lamentations about their newfound fame, for starters (“I don’t care what you think/as long as it’s about me”). For those questioning the legitimacy of contemporary pop punk, they need only to look at arguably the biggest active band in the genre not fronted by a guy named Billie Joe. The songs have gotten darker musically yet a touch lighter thematically. Not quite as sugary sweet as From Under the Cork Tree, this album swaps cavities for Costello, who guests on “What a Catch, Donnie.” While a number of the guest appearances on Folie à Deux don’t add much to the original song (see: Saporta, Gabriel, Beckett, William, et. al.), Costello’s gig really shines on “Donnie’s” down-tempo sing-along, dovetailing nicely with Stump’s crooning. In fact, as Costello had The Attractions and now his solo career, it’s not much of a stretch to see Stump heading down that road at some point with his distinctive delivery and penchant for musical experimentation. The new album leaves Infinity on High in the dust amid gloomier musical overtones and a much stronger initial response from fans.
The carnival escapee, “20 Dollar Nose Bleed,” is a sharp contrast with the Pharrell Williams-produced/guested “W.A.M.S.,” which is sure to be a fan favorite, and the Lil Wayne-featured “Tiffany Blews,” which could have done with a little less whine and cheese from the mega-rapper. The bouncy piano parts of “20 Dollar Nose Bleed” channel Panic (no exclamation point) at the Disco. Throwing listeners for a loop, spliced into the middle of the song is a Kipling reference that flows into a political critique (“The man who would be king goes to the desert/the same war his dad rehearsed/Comes back with flags on coffins and says ‘We won, oh we won'”). It proves quite an interesting pairing of light and dark, and is a reference that many will miss the first time through the album. Considering the band’s political activism (this album was originally scheduled to drop on Election Day), it’s not surprising, yet at the same time, it shows that they refuse to settle for being known for clever hooks and magazine covers.
The revolving door of guests–including Fueled By Ramen favorites Gabe Saporta, William Beckett, Travis McCoy, Brendon Urie, along with Costello, Debbie Harry, Lil Wayne, and Pharrell Williams–fail to spruce up the album much more than the band could have done on their own. On the other hand, fans of those named above should get a kick out of spotting the slew of guest spots throughout Folie à Deux. Fall Out Boy could have played it safe and delivered a dozen hooky yet bland cuts to sell a solid million records. Instead, they push the musical envelope without losing what makes them both memorable and marketable. As sometimes happens with musical experiments, some of the songs almost have too much going on, with pulsating guitar and bass combos, several vocal layers at a time, and pummeling drumbeats that at times get lost in the mix—and that’s not even touching the drum machine, hand claps, strings, and piano. Neal Avron again did a stellar job making Folie à Deux sound crisp and refined, however, and it shows that a band can be on a major label and produced without being over-produced.
To quote Stump in the album’s third track, “We didn’t come to compete/this is a demonstration.” He and the rest of the band have written the album that fans have been looking forward to but not expecting would actually happen. Folie is the result of Fall Out Boy’s continued maturation, to use the well-worn cliché. They reach across genres, touching upon elements of R&B and funk, complementing them with complexly arranged pop songs, tongues firmly planted in cheek the whole time. This is Fall Out Boy at their most creative, their most honest, and their most hopeful. Folie à Deux makes this much clear–get on or off the bandwagon or you can bet your ass is getting run over by this F.A.D. and the trailer towing the platinum plaques that are sure to follow.