Fall Out Boy – Folie a Deux
Record Label: Island Records
Release Date: December 16th 2008
It’s no surprise that Chicago quartet Fall Out Boy is my favorite band, but what is a surprise is that the band’s fifth full-length record Folie a Deux (which in English, translates to A Madness Shared by Two) is a record that I was not very familiar with. For whatever reason, I stopped listening to the band for a couple of years, and in those couple years, this record was released. I had heard a plethora of things on it, both positive and extremely negative. People said it was their best record, and others said it was their worst, because it was such a departure from 2003’s Take This to Your Grave, which is true, in all honesty. That’s not a bad thing, but I’ll get to that shortly, though. Within the last year, I’ve been getting back into their discography much more, and lastly was Folie a Deux. Don’t get me wrong, I knew a few songs from this record, such as “America’s Suitehearts,” “What a Catch, Donnie,” and “I Don’t Care,” which is one of my favorite tracks on the album. In fact, all of those tracks are some of my favorites. Overall, however, I didn’t know this record well enough, and I really needed a copy. For the last couple months, I’ve seen a copy at my local FYE store, but it was $20, and I didn’t know if I was willing to spend that much for a record, because let’s face it, FYE price their records quite ridiculously. Temptation was calling my name, so I figured I’d pick it up, despite the crazy pricepoint. Before I talk about Folie, though, another reason I decided to finally just give in and buy it was because Fall Out Boy announced their reunion after a four-year hiatus, and this was their last record before the hiatus. In that announcement, they announced a new record and a new single. I’ve been listening to the new single “My Songs Know What You Did In the Dark” constantly in the last week, so it only makes sense to finally pick up Folie a Deux. Well, I’m very glad I did, because this is a masterpiece of a record. In all honesty, my favorite Fall Out Boy record is 2007’s Infinity On High as well as being my favorite record of all time, and while Folie a Deux is a wonderful record, and comes very close, I still have to give the edge to Infinity On High. I have a lot of emotional attachment to Infinity On High, because it was the first record I fell in love with, but I do have some newfound emotional attachment with this for different reasons. Regardless, this record is great, even if it’s a vast difference from every other record they’ve done. And as I mentioned earlier, that’s not a bad thing. Why? Well, for starters, this is a very nice progression for them, because Infinity On High featured a lot of pop-rock/R&B traits, and that’s exactly what this record has, but SO much more. In fact, this is a very straightforward pop-rock record, with lots of hooks, and moments that can get stuck in your head for days. Aside from the musical shift, the lyrics on this record are quite different from anything bassist / lyricist Pete Wentz has done, either. A lot of these songs aren’t as personal as other records, but do feature relatable things. Even some subtle political lyrics make their way into this record, which is very surprising, but interesting, nonetheless. So if this record is a very natural progression for the band, why don’t I like this record more than Infinity On High? Well, for starters, Infinity On High does have a few trace pop-punk elements. While I love Folie for what it is, Infinity On High is a really cool record that combines both their older material with the more experimental stuff. That is a great record that encompasses the old, but still brings in the new. Folie is really devoid of any pop-punk elements, but that doesn’t make it an awful record. It’s rather interesting to think that if you told someone in 2003 that Fall Out Boy would make a straightforward pop-rock record, they wouldn’t believe you, but they did, and they’re back, too. It’s a great progression for them, and this record does feature some of the best songs in FOB’s catalog. So, with that being said, let’s share the madness, and dive into Folie a Deux, shall we?
The record begins with the strangely titled track “Disloyal Order of Water Buffalos,” although to be fair, the strange titles are something to expect from the band. This song really shows off the band’s new sound, which is straightforward pop-rock, as I mentioned earlier in the review. That’s not a bad thing whatsoever, and it also shouldn’t be a surprise for people who listened to Infinity On High, because that featured a LOT of pop-rock elements, but still retained some pop-punk as well. This record really strips away at that, and has a very much more straightforward approach, which works, for the most part. I say “for the most part,” because there are a few songs that really do not do a lot for me here, and that seems to be the case with every Fall Out Boy record; the FOB songs that hit really hit, and the ones that don’t just don’t do very much for me, really. Immediately, it’s easy to tell that Patrick Stump’s vocals have improved greatly, and I would say they are better than on Infinity On High (and they were fantastic). His vocals seem to get better with every release, and it definitely rings true here. Back to the first song, however, this is a very interesting song, and it’s a great opening song that shows off what the band is made of. Pete Wentz’s lyrics are also very well done here as well, especially with the repeated line of, “No one wants to hear you sing about tragedy.” This is a wonderful track, but certainly not my favorite, either. In all honesty, it falls in the middle, but it leads right into first single “I Don’t Care,” which I can say the opposite about. This is one of my favorite songs from the record, and one of my favorite FOB songs in general. This is the epitome of their pop-rock sound. The chorus is absolutely catchy, and the song itself is just absolutely groovy. Stump also carries that “swagger” in his voice, where he absolutely owns the song. It’s so much fun to listen to, and I can’t get enough of this song. Next track “She’s My Winona” also has a very groovy feel to it, but it doesn’t really do a lot for me. This is one of those tracks that just kind falls to the wayside for me. Don’t get me wrong, no tracks on here are worth skipping. They are all wonderful, but some tracks just kind of fade into the shadows, like this one. On the other hand, that can’t be said for fourth track “America’s Suitehearts,” which is another single from the record, and one of my favorite tracks from the record, as I mentioned earlier on in the review. This song is definitely another epitome of what FOB’s new pop-rock sound has morphed into. The lyrics are solid, Stump’s voice is absolutely killer, and the music itself just slays. While Stump composes most of the music himself, he has said this was their most collaborative record yet, and it truly shows. This song has a very R&B vibe to it, too, and I love it. The next couple of tracks are really enjoyable, but really do fall to the wayside when it comes to a track like “America’s Suitehearts.” They are good songs, though; “Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown On a Bad Bet” is quite catchy, and “The (Shipped) Gold Standard” has some of my favorite lyrics, but those tracks aren’t as great as others. The next songs that really stick with me come in the form of a one-two punch “(Coffee’s For Closers)” and “What a Catch, Donnie.” The former starts off with a really awesome drumbeat from drummer Andy Hurley, and then it moves into a very straightforward pop-rock with Patrick slaying the vocals, as usual. The chorus is absolutely killer, especially when Patrick sings, “I never will believe in anything again.” It’s absolutely fantastic. That track leads right into “What a Catch, Donnie,” which is easily my favorite track on the record. This has a very “chill” vibe to it, because the music is very stripped down and really focuses on Patrick’s vocals. The most interesting part of this song is that it features a LOT of guest vocalists during the end of the song that actually sing FOB songs in the background and it’s really subtle, but it’s really awesome when you realize it. Definitely the highlight of the record.
As for the rest of the record, it does go rather smoothly. One of my favorite things about this is how cohesive it is. It’s not a concept record, but every song seems like it was placed rather nicely. But the last third of the record isn’t as great as the two, and I will admit that. That’s really the only complaint I have; after “What a Catch, Donnie,” the rest of the record kind of slips a bit. There are some highlights, though; tenth track “Tiffany Blews” is definitely one of those highlights. This track has a very nice R&B feel to it, as a lot of the tracks do, and it works nicely. Next track “W.A.M.S.” is really interesting, because while it doesn’t do very much for me, the last minute of the song has Patrick sounding like a retro soul artist, singing a capella, and doing a very fine job. Twelfth track “20 Dollar Nose Bleed” starts off with a piano riff that’s really different for the band, and that alone does make the song stand out. The end of the song has a spoken word type of thing by Pete, and that does remind of me something he did on the band’s third record From Under the Cork Tree, and it’s really interesting. Last track “West Coast Smoker” is a great closing track, because it just takes their pop-rock sound and makes it absolutely huge. The track is really short, but it ends the album nicely. This is a masterpiece of a record, there’s doubt about it. Would I say this is FOB’s best record? Well, that’s the beauty of this band – some people will say it is, others will say it’s not, because the band has progressed a LOT throughout their 12-year career. While I may still believe that Infinity On High is the highest (pun intended) Fall Out Boy have risen, I can say this is their most expansive and progressive record to date. This is a monster of a record, and it really shows off what the band is capable of. The pop-punk may be gone, but they’re turning over a new leaf, essentially, which is great, because I’m all for progression and expansion. At the time when the record was made, they were all starting to grow more as musicians and men in general, so it makes sense that this record would be radically different compared to Take This To Your Grave. Fall Out Boy is a band that’s never put out a “bad” record, but merely records that are my most favorite to least favorite, and I would certainly rank this number two, only second to Infinity On High. Infinity On High still has that pop-punk edge, and while it’s not a bad thing that the pop-punk is gone from this record, I still loved it a bit more just because it still retains at least a shred of their roots. Regardless, this is a great record in its own right.