With ‘Folie Deux,” Fall Out Boy’s fourth album, the super-slick pop-punk rock band from Illinois cements its status as master of combining wordplay with strong melody.
Sometime around the commercial success of ‘This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race,” Fall Out Boy, and especially songwriter Pete Wentz, probably came to grips with what everyone else already knew: stick with what you do best. For FOB, talent lies in the guitar riff.
‘Folie” is not exempt from Wentz’s incessant yearning for cramming as many allusions as possible into a song, nor are his puns which, frankly, made me enjoy the band in the first place.
Those who can’t handle the highest class of humor might as well stay away from this album. But those unafraid of wrapping their heads around the lyrical references will find solace in the masterful melodies concocted by the band.
In perfect honesty, nothing on the album strays far from standard Fall Out Boy. ‘Folie” essentially refines the riff-heavy hits of ‘From Under the Cork Tree” and ‘Infinity on High” and almost shamelessly at that. The opening tracks could be easily confused for any of the harder-rocking songs on the past two albums. Indeed, one senses while listening to it that Fall Out Boy has fallen into a Beatles-like passivity, giving their fans exactly what they want until they surprise us with an album akin to ‘Revolver.” I can only imagine…and shudder.
While ‘Folie” could be used as another example in the ongoing debate of bands pitting craftsmanship against artistry, it gives the Fall Out Boy fans exactly what they want and then some. All of Wentz’s yearning lyrics about the misery of love still exist (even marrying Ashlee Simpson and having a kid named Bronx Wentz hasn’t mellowed him out), Patrick Stump still has a startlingly soulful voice, and the guitars still give subwoofers a workout.
To be sure, the album as a whole fares much better than the lackluster ‘Infinity on High.” And while the most typical songs moderate riffs without much variation start at the beginning, they are fine warm-ups. Once the album reaches ‘The (Shipped) Gold Standard,” things begin to take off. For starters, ‘Standard” invokes the power of clapping that’s right, fellow ‘Stacy’s Mom” fans, the best percussion instrument in all its glory got the go-ahead!
But with ‘(Coffee’s for Closers),” Fall Out Boy begins to spin the melody as only they can, even boasting some strings that don’t seem, as they do with many bands, entirely unnecessary. The entire album is indeed almost an experiment in taking the same basic lyrics and finding new ways to express them musically no doubt thanks to Stump’s composing and great vocal control. And if, to give them the benefit of the doubt, that is what they are trying to do, I am somewhat impressed by what they manage to pull off.’27,” for instance, has some subtle Latin flare before delivering a beautiful electric guitar solo, no doubt geared toward a future place on a ‘Guitar Hero” soundtrack.’Tiffany Blews” provides some business-as-usual riffs, but you can skip it to get to the beautifully erratic ‘W.A.M.S.” It ends with a blues ballad, of all things, that makes some kind of weird sense in the grand scheme of things.
The band rounds out the album with what are actually my two favorite songs, ’20 Dollar Nose Bleed” and ‘West Coast Smoker.”
With ‘Bleed,” the band ventures into a piano-centric ditty (I wish I knew a better word to describe it) with a borderline television show theme song melody going on, and even though this track arguably strays closest to pure pop, something about the light and frothy guitar makes it work well. ‘Smoker” erstwhile unleashes about every trick in the band’s arsenal a masterful riff, a hot beat and a cacophony of fast-paced vocals.
Originality might not triumph on ‘Folie Deux,” but Fall Out Boy delivers what they make best catchy, powerful pop-punk, pun-tinged to perfection.
Brenneman is a member of
the class of 2009.



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