Like Paramore and Panic! At the Disco, Fall Out Boy’s second decade sounds much different than their first. Ever since returning from hiatus with Save Rock and Roll in 2013, the band has shifted away from their pop-punk roots and their seventh studio album M A N I A solidifies the switch to a more stadium sound.
Thematically and musically, this album is a bit erratic, keeping true to it’s namesake. Exploring concepts of self-love and confidence, as well as all-consuming love and devotion for another person, while taking inspiration from any and everything, Fall Out Boy manages to keep true to themselves while evolving a step beyond previous outings.
No songs on M A N I A sound like the one that came before it, and the album itself makes it hard to believe this is the same band behind “Dead on Arrival”. The opening track, “Young and Menace” draws heavy inspiration from electronica, while “HOLD ME TIGHT OR DON’T” has a very Hawaiian feel to it. “Church” plays like a cut track from singer Patrick Stump’s 2011 solo venture Soul Punk and “The Last of the Real Ones” wouldn’t be out of place on Fall Out Boy’s 2008 album Folie a Deux.
Stump’s signature vocals shine above all else on this album, and that’s not a knock on the other members of the band. Patrick was great in places on American Beauty/American Psycho, but nothing on it comes close to how phenomenal he performs on “Church” and “Heaven’s Gate”. The latter of those two tracks might be the overall best track on the record, with a blues sound Fall Out Boy hasn’t really touched since “Golden“.
Pete Wentz has handled the bulk of the lyrical duties for the band since their inception and hasn’t missed a beat. While the trademark long titles may be done away with, Wentz’s penchant for double meanings and coded references stays the same. M A N I A pays homage to pop icon Britney Spears on “Young and Menace” and references disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding by name on “Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea”. The closing stretch of the album, “Church”, “Heaven’s Gate” “Sunshine Riptide” and “Bishop’s Knife Trick” might be the best four-song sequence of Fall Out Boy’s since “I’m Like A Lawyer” through “Thnks Fr Th Mmrs”, lyrically. The closing track uses the repetition of the phrase “the last” to leave fans guessing and hanging on to the last note.
M A N I A is a far cry from the band’s earliest efforts in terms of sound. It deliberately leaves the fast paced punk sound in the past, which is appropriate. They aren’t the same late-teens to young adults they were on Take This To Your Grave and From Under the Cork Tree. Now firmly men, Fall Out Boy are carving a new path for themselves, and M A N I A is just the next step in that.