Ugh… I have been dreading this album, tbh.
Let me start off by saying that I have been a HUGE fan of this band since 2007. I’ve seen them in concert 4 times, own their records on vinyl, and even have a tattoo of some of their lyrics. I *want* to love everything that they release. And up until their 2015 release “American Beauty/American Psycho,” I did.
Bands change. They evolve, and I get that. I’m not mad about that. Tbh, I’ll probably write an entirely separate article all about my issues with Fall Out Boy in another post. You know what, let’s just jump into the review, track by track, shall we?
MANIA starts off promising with the first track, Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea. With a strong presence of drums in the beginning and other synths mixed in. While I’m not really a fan of music that’s synth-heavy, this track is alright. In terms of lyrical content, I think it’s alright as well. This stands as a track that’s like, “You can do this!” while not trying to sound so basic. I mean, it kinda works. I really do enjoy the phrase “Eau de résistance” which is “smell the resistance”(I think? Idk tbh I’m trusting Genius on this one) which I think is pretty cool actually.
Up next comes The Last Of The Real Ones which is one that I actually enjoy. It’s a love song that uses space imagery to show how much the narrator loves this other person. The piano sample at the beginning gives it a nice little twinkle before Stumps’ angelic voice comes in. This is a track where I think that Stumps’ voice really shines. This song is catchy as hell, and you can actually hear some instruments in this one! *gasp*
HOLD ME TIGHT OR DON’T is next, the fourth single released. I honestly can’t get behind this song. I can see how it would be catchy, but it just doesn’t really sound pleasant to my ears. I don’t really like the whistling, the snapping, the na-na-na’s, or the lyrics really. Personally, I’m not somebody that really enjoys repetition of lyrics, like “An-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-nother day goes by,” for example. That’s just my opinion though, of course.
However, the whole repetition thing doesn’t bother me as much on the next track, Wilson (Expensive Mistakes). This song actually has some decent lyrics that are reminiscent of their earlier discography. Lyrics like “There’s nothing more cruel than to be loved by everybody but you” remind me of the days where I would sit in bed and try to decode what Wentz meant. Like, is the “you” another person, or is he talking about himself? There’s different ways to interpret it. That’s the FOB that I remember.
Church is next, and honestly I’m not a fan of this one. Lyrically, I think that FOB were trying too hard to make a metaphor out of church. They use a lot of religious imagery to describe a romantic relationship, and idk, I just don’t really like it. It feels a little bit too forced, like “If you were a church, I’d get on my knees” — just say what you’re trying to say, FOB. The music on this one isn’t my favorite either — where are the instruments? Andy and Joe who? Of course you can hear the drums and guitars at some points, but it feels drowned out by the synths and other added effects. One thing I will say, though, is that Stumps’ soul voice really shines on this one too.
Church segues right into Heaven’s Gate, which is a slower song that talks about needing to get a boost into heaven. Musically, this doesn’t sound like anything that FOB has done before, which again, isn’t a bad thing. However, it doesn’t sound like it should be on the record. It doesn’t feel like it fits. Also, the lyrics were good until we got to “And in the end if I don’t make it on the list / Would you sneak me a wristband?” Like, what? That lyric just feels unnecessary and makes the song feel more juvenile and dumb, imo.
Things pick up again with Champion, which I’m slightly torn about. On one hand, it’s alright. But on the other hand, it just feels like they’re trying to churn out another arena anthem like “Centuries.” I feel like this song is just alright. It doesn’t really hold much substance for me.
We move onto Sunshine Riptide next, another song that I just don’t really vibe with and that I don’t think sounds cohesive with the album as a whole. It features Reggae singer Burna Boy, who can be heard on the second verse of the song. It definitely features that reggae vibe, something else that sounds unlike anything they’ve ever done. This album is most likely what the album art was inspired by.
Up next is undoubtedly the WORST song on this album, Young and Menace. This song was the first single to be released, and I despised it from the moment it came out. The lyrics are decent, and I think with different instrumentation, they could have worked out. There’s a crescendo building up throughout the first verse, and you expect this exploding chorus that’s amazing — but then it turns into this shitty dubstep of Stump saying “Young and a menace.” Then, after that chaotic mess, it goes straight back to Stumps’ soft vocals. Like, I understand that that’s probably supposed to represent how chaotic the phenomenon of mania, but like… it was poorly done. The shitty dubstep should have been cut in half — it goes on for wayyyyy too long. It’s cool that they’re experimenting with dubstep and EDM, but they didn’t do it well. This song is all over the place, which I think is intentional, but I just don’t like it because of that.
The album is saved by Bishops Knife Trick, however at this point of listening I’m not even sure I want to continue on. It seems that some of the guitar work is 80’s influenced, but it feels buried. You really have to listen to hear it, which is a damn shame because it actually sounds good. We leave the album on a somewhat solemn vibe, which doesn’t sound bad. This is another song that’s just alright.
All in all, I would probably give this album a 4/10. There’s some redeeming qualities, such as Stumps’ shining vocals, the few and scattered guitar riffs, and lyrics that are up for interpretation.
However, I can’t get over the lack of instrumentation on this album. I’m not necessarily saying that’s a bad thing — but in that case, then we need to start calling Fall Out Boy a strictly pop band. The rock influences are few and far between, and are buried beneath all of the synths and effects that FOB have piled on top.
So, let’s look at this for what it is — a purely pop album. In that case, I don’t even think it is too great. It feels all over the place, with different influences in different songs. I’m not saying that every song needs to have the same sound, but these songs don’t sound cohesive together. Maybe that was the intention of FOB, and the intention behind the name “Mania,” but for me it feels too scattered.
So, there you have it. Probably the first FOB record I won’t be picking up, considering I don’t like over half the songs. I think it’s time to hop off the FOB train and pass it on to the younger generation.
The bandwagon’s full, please catch another.