American Beauty / American Psycho

American Beauty / American Psycho

Prior to their hiatus in 2009, Fall Out Boy were poster boys for the mid-2000s emo-rock scene. Upon returning in 2013, however, their second act has seen them expand their sonic palette and evolve into one of mainstream music’s most forward-thinking and progressive acts, traversing and incorporating genres at will. Wise enough to realize that by 2013 the scene had changed irrevocably since the mid-2000s, the band chose to evolve rather than die, with that year’s Save Rock and Roll striking a middle ground between the emo-rock anthems of their past and the more hip-hop and pop-leaning charts of the mid-’10s. The evolution continued on American Beauty / American Psycho, with the band enlisting producer Jake Sinclair, whose engineering and production credits include Sia, Keith Urban, and Taylor Swift amongst more rock-oriented acts like Weezer and Panic! At the Disco. The album draws on hip-hop’s penchant for sampling, with Mötley Crüe’s “Too Fast for Love” pulsing through the electro-punk title track (which was produced by French DJ SebastiAn), while “Uma Thurman” incorporates the theme from The Munsters, and Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner” features in “Centuries.” That Fall Out Boy can pull off the merging of such production techniques with rock anthems (“Immortals,” “Centuries”) without losing their identity is down to several factors, starting with the fact that their transition to this point has been gradual, starting as far back as their dalliances with R&B and soul on 2007’s Infinity on High. And then there’s Patrick Stump’s vocals, elastic enough to command the band’s bombastic moments as easily as the electro-fueled “Jet Pack Blues,” and the glue that makes it all sound like one coherent piece of work. Finally you have bassist/lyricist Pete Wentz’s ever-evocative lyrics, which verge from fury and sadness at the police killing of Trayvon Martin (“Novocaine”) to his uncanny knack for capturing the heady highs and lows of romance, as in “Favorite Record”: “You were the song stuck in my head/Every song that I’ve ever loved.” The end result is an album that bears only a passing resemblance to 2003’s Take This to Your Grave, yet somehow feels like the work of the same group.

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