Miles Ricketts was not impressed by Fall Out Boy's latestMegan Westerby

Fall Out Boy have evidently come a long way since ‘Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown On A Bad Bet’ or ‘I’m Like A Lawyer With The Way I’m Always Trying To Get You Off (Me & You)’. No longer are we subjected to largely indecipherable lyrics that impressionable Kerrang! readers will paste all over their rooms and themselves. No, no, no. Now we have hard-hitting, inspirational words. Words for Coachella ghouls to try vainly to mouth along to while filming themselves at the show.

“If I can live through this

If I can live through this

If I can live through this

I can do anything

Champion, champion

Champion, champion”

Lyricist Pete Wentz has associated the above words from ‘Champion’ with his own ‘champions’, such as Nelson Mandela. This is such a ripe target for ridicule that one can only hope that it’s steeped in some perverse irony. For a band that once removed the vowels from the title of perhaps their biggest song, ‘Thnks Fr Th Mmrs,’ to mock the record label checking them for their verbose track listings, this is what is known as selling out.

It is regarded as far too hyperbolic today to say that someone has sold out. Well, Fall Out Boy sold out. It certainly hasn’t done them any harm to sell out, racking up countless ‘Best International Rock Band’ awards from homogenous radio stations, performing large arena tours with bargain bin rappers, all with the sneaky notion hidden in the back of their minds that if it doesn’t work out, and the Spotify hits for their new simplistic adventures begin to grind to a halt, there is always the prospect of an Infinity on High album tour and an accompanying ‘back-to-basics’ release.

What happened Pete? In Fall Out Boy’s first incarnation, they had a supreme knack for combining odd lyrics with inventive and catchy melodies. With 2013’s comeback record Save Rock and Roll, that all got thrown out in favour of uninspired pop songs.

Ultimately in Fall Out Boy’s case it’s not ‘going pop’ that causes the damage, but rather the greedy desire to have the best of both worlds; to make a move for the cool kids while still hanging out with the old ones in case things don’t work out. Look at guitarist Joe Trohman wielding his axe with vigour – but hang on…there’s no audible guitar. Perhaps he hasn’t been plugged in? Then it hits you. It’s all a ploy, the instruments all props. Boys, if you want to make loud pop songs, that’s fine, but it’s simply insulting waving around guitars when all we can hear is lame dancehall.

But perhaps the core reason why the songs on MANIA are so genuinely annoying, is because they’re just not very good. There is a cryptic backstory to this album where the band either delayed the release because they considered it not to be up to scratch, or because lead single ‘Young and Menace’ tanked. Whatever was altered on the album, it still sounds like an undignified, incoherent mess. The ‘big chorus’ that every song builds up to amidst a succession of predictable jittery beats are the most crushingly dull and repetitive examples of their type. Opening the album, ‘Young and Menace’ has to be applauded here for at least sounding bizarrely yet unsuccessfully bonkers compared to the snooze-fests that are the aforementioned ‘Champion’ or ‘Bishops Knife Trick’. ‘Church’ defines the general lowest common denominator appeal by having irritating church bells clanging around throughout. ‘The Last of the Real Ones’ is marginally better in a Europop sort of way but doesn’t really connect.

And yet, this is the band that made ‘Sugar We’re Goin’ Down’, ‘Thnks Fr Th Mmrs’ and the vastly underrated Folie à Deux. Deep in there, the real Fall Out Boy and their suppressed ability to produce a genuinely good tune must be straining for freedom. On MANIA it surfaces in the form of ‘Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)’, a comforting reminder of their potential, with a soaring chorus distinct from the other disappointingly cynical ones, and a performance from Stump thankfully not distorted with a vicious assault of grating vocal modulations.

They’re still in there. Who knows if they’ll ever emerge again.

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