‘People always talk about the depression side, but it’s the other side… that invulnerable feeling… that’s… that’s dangerous.’
The clip from American cable show Legion that appeared on Pete Wentz’ Instagram on December 30 provided a couple of clues. Firstly; where the inspiration for the title of the Chicago band’s seventh studio album may have originated, and secondly; precisely which kind of mania it refers to.
In the realm of popular music, it is synonymous with hordes of screeching teens, the most maniacal of all of course giving birth to ‘Beatlemania’ itself. A modern manifestation may lie in unhealthy obsessions with celebrity, image and indeed Instagram.
Fall Out Boy, as one of the biggest rock bands on the planet, are no strangers to some degree of this mania. But the kind of band they are? One-time poster boys for the much-maligned emo movement of the 2000s, their music is built upon Wentz’ ‘look-at-me’ poetry and the glorious range of Patrick Stump. Like all great emo, at its heart is a sublime disparity between word and sound. Ecstatic depression. Triumphant melancholy. Mania.
It would be a long stretch of the imagination to hear ‘Young and Menace’ and make any coherent comparison to ‘Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down’, and yet, somewhere deep in its choppy, jarring, disjointed, brilliant opening to the record, the old Fall Out Boy lives. This is punk rock for 2018.
‘Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)’ is the group’s best song since 2013’s ‘The Phoenix’ – everything a FOB track needs to be, it is perfectly pretentious and equally catchy. The thumping ‘The Last Of The Real Ones’ gives it a run for its money: “I wonder if your therapist knows everything about me.”
Questionable use of bells and choirs don’t quite manage to derail the Hozier-esque sexual implications of ‘Church’, which ushers in the record’s oddly spiritual – and inferior – final third. Stump’s evident enjoyment of ‘Heaven’s Gate”s vocal acrobatics does not disguise its dreariness, while Burna Boy’s presence on ‘Sunshine Riptide’ is to its detriment.
‘We were never supposed to make it half this far’, considers Wentz on ‘Young and Menace’. He’s not wrong – where so many of their contemporaries fell, Fall Out Boy excelled and evolved. They continue to do so, more emphatically than ever.
A relevant band in an age of mania.
‘Mania’ is out now