Historically, excluding the last two albums that came post-hiatus, Fall Out Boy‘s releases have followed a pattern of blue, red, blue, red. They decided to go purple with the release of their seventh studio album, M A N I A, and bassist Pete Wentz explained the move in an interview with Rolling Stone: “It feels like every once in awhile, you’ve gotta do a hard restart that clears the cache and erases the hard drive. I think that’s what [M A N I A] was – a big palette cleanse.”
Fans first taste of the album, which was supposed to be released in September 2017 but was delayed until now as the band felt the record simply wasn’t ready, came in the form of a single entitled ‘Young and Menace‘. The track was a shock to the system of most Fall Out Boy fans as it delved into unchartered territory. EDM isn’t a genre one would normally associate with the traditionally pop-punk band, but that isn’t to say it was a bad move at all. Wentz assured it would be the track that went furthest afield on the entire album, but as is human nature— people did jump the gun and were ready for a boycott.
The following four singles, ‘Champion‘, ‘The Last of the Real Ones‘, ‘Hold Me Tight or Don’t‘ and ‘Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)‘ did an excellent job at confirming Wentz’ promise, with each track exploring a new sound for Fall Out Boy but still retaining some fragments of the band that fans had come to know and love in their 17-year career. It’s enough to prove that they are maturing as artists every time they release new music, but also that they still have respect for their roots.
In terms of material that has been unheard so far, Fall Out Boy offer a treasure trove. The album’s first track, ‘Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea‘ is the perfect introduction to what is a wild ride of a musical affair. It’s fast-paced, utilises Stump’s incredible vocal range in the way it deserves and presents the intricate, tempestuous Wentz lyrics that are commonplace in Fall Out Boy songs. “Are you smelling this shit? Eau de résistance!” is a particularly notable line, and is not the first time they have paid homage to the French language. (See: ‘Irresistible‘ on American Beauty/American Psycho).
Later on presents ‘Church‘, an interesting track that has an organ-led introduction with single-layer vocals on top; the seductive as all hell line, “if you were a church, I’d get on my knees.” This track is more reminiscent of older Fall Out Boy material, perhaps not pre-hiatus but definitely touching on a similar sound to the last two full-length releases. ‘Heaven’s Gate‘ on the other hand is far more soulful, tapping into some of the influences Stump has cited in the past, and offering a slow-burning almost-R&B experience throughout.
You may not have heard of Burna Boy before, but the Nigerian reggae-dancehall singer makes an appearance on the latter half of M A N I A during another track that Fall Out Boy has used as an opportunity to explore styles outside of their comfort zone. ‘Sunshine Riptide‘ has a certain je ne sais quoi to it despite not being what you’d expect from a band that was strictly “rock” for so long. Peculiarities aside, the thumping bassline and creative lyrics make for an excellent piece of music.
M A N I A closes with ‘Bishops Knife Trick‘, a song fit for the stadiums that, to Fall Out Boy, are no doubt old-hat by now. It has an epic build-up and a huge chorus that makes it just the right cut for bringing this record to its end. It’s a testament to just how brilliant the minds of the four men who make up Fall Out Boy are, but with that being said so is the album as a whole. It surely does have the ability to alienate some of their older fans, but only if those people are not open to the idea of embracing different kinds of music or the idea that bands must adapt in order to grow. Looking at what fantastic things have been done on M A N I A, it is, ultimately, their loss.