Fall Out Boy

Folie à Deux

For all the negatives said, written or blogged about Fall Out Boy (and trust us, there are a lot), it’s damn near impossible to fault the Chicago-born band for their creativity, ingenuity and willingness to try just about anything. (How many other previous Warped Tour headliners do you know who’ve attempted to play Antarctica recently?) Sure, you can hate Pete Wentz for his media-whoring abilities (dude would attend the opening of a Doritos bag if you invited him), but when it comes to the music, the band–bassist/lyricist Wentz, vocalist/guitarist Patrick Stump, guitarist Joe Trohman and drummer Andy Hurley–take what they do surprisingly seriously, and Folie a Deux represents that well.

As many have already explained, Folie a Deux translates from French to mean “a madness shared by two.” What’s interesting, then, is how the album itself actually fights against this joint-mind feeling with two very distinct halves. The first seven tracks are a great mixture of what many would refer to as “quintessential Fall Out Boy” (meaning huge hooks, open-diary lyrics and plenty of ear candy from Stump) as well as some of the band’s more recent R&B affectations seen on 2007’s Infinity On High. “America’s Suitehearts”-while having way too many vocal overdubs for this writer’s comfort level-is probably the most visceral gut-shot the band have penned since “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down.” Its half-time chorus is as musically enormous as FOB get, and Wentz’s lyrics (“Let’s hear it for America’s suitehearts/I must confess I’m in love with my own sins”) are as honest as he’s been in some time. “She’s My Winona” suffers from an awkward key change toward its end, but otherwise is a solid, uptempo rocker with some neat production flourishes in the drums. The disc’s first single, “I Don’t Care,” while directly aping Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus,” is still a hell of a good time. The first half of the disc closes out with “(Coffee’s For Closers),” a gorgeous, string-enhanced number that leaves you emotionally drained after a repeated chant of “We will never believe again/Kick drum beating in my chest again.” It’s wordplay like this that once again make Wentz king of emo troubadours, as much as he’d probably like to shed the title.

For as many risks as the album’s first half doesn’t take, the remaining six songs go all out in terms of grandiosity (and potential absurdity). The overblown R&B piano ballad “What A Catch, Donnie” kicks off with guest vocals from most of the Decaydance roster (including Panic At The Disco’s Brendon Urie and Gym Class Heroes’ Travis McCoy) before turning the reins over to pop’s elder statesman, Elvis Costello, for a 15-second cameo in which he sings a hook from one of the album’s previous songs, “Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown On A Bad Bet,” before disappearing (presumably back to your cool uncle’s record collection). But that’s peanuts compared to what happens in the next 18 minutes or so-“Tiffany Blews” is a pseudo club-stomper featuring a phoned-in appearance from rap blünderkind Lil’ Wayne (seriously, it sounds like it was recorded off an answering machine) that doesn’t have much going for it. “w.a.m.s.” is next, which is a synth-heavy ’80s dance number that just sounds misguided and awkward-and that’s before the double-bass outro which fades into a strange, minute-long retro-blues piece presumably from Pharrell, who is supposed to appear somewhere in the song.

Urie pops up again in “20 Dollar Nose Bleed,” which at first listen will recall Billy Preston’s funk-pop classic “Nothing From Nothing” (seriously) as well as Panic’s Pretty. Odd., with its enjoyable horn accents and bouncy beat. It’s the highlight of the album’s second half, which woefully lacks standouts; if you buy Folie a Deux on vinyl, odds are you’ll never get around to flipping the platter over to side B. But it’s hard to hold the mistakes against the band, because as usual, they went for it. There aren’t any other groups who have achieved such widespread mainstream success but still tinker with their sound this much. While Folie a Deux at times feels like the band are showing off the contents of their Rolodex, the album’s standouts are so good that they will undoubtedly become standards for the band’s live shows for years to come. And really, does it matter if people like it or not? As Stump sings (and Wentz writes), “I don’t care what you think/As long as it’s about me.”