Monday, January 24, 2011

Fall Out Boy - "Infinity On High"

Recently, I've been looking back at a band that I absolutely could not stand when they first came out. On August 25, 2005, Fall Out Boy dropped their first single, "Sugar, We're Goin' Down," from their major label debut From Under the Cork Tree. From that day forward, I thought it was the end of music as I knew it, and I've held that mantra until about a month ago.

My girlfriend wanted me to give Fall Out Boy a whirl, just for the sake of finally being able to form a solid opinion on the band and their music. Since 2005, I've mellowed out a little, I'm more open to bands and genres of music that I usually would not be into, and smoking a little weed every now and again didn't hurt my appreciation of music.

So, taking the Fall Out Boy discography that my girlfriend keeps in her room, I decided to go through all the albums over the course of a week and see how I felt about them. On the whole, I'm actually surprised that I've been able to get into them as much as I have been. Recently, I've found myself performing acoustic renditions of their songs at open mic nights at the coffee shop I work at, singing along to the songs in my car, and hell, even getting into the side projects of some of the members, namely Patrick Stump, Joe Trohman, and Andy Hurley.

However, I will forever and always be a vehement protester of Pete Wentz. He may have been the primary lyricist for the band (and I use the term lyricist very loosely), but the fact that this man could only play very simple root notes, could not sing to save his life, and essentially left composition duties with Patrick and the rest of the band really just gets my goat as to why he was seen as something of a frontman for the group. But, I won't go off into my regular anti-Wentz rant for the time being.

Instead, I want to focus on a Fall Out Boy album that really caught my ear: Infintiy on High. 

There really is a kind of funky, soulful undertone to the whole album, and it definitely does a fantastic job of separating Fall Out Boy from other pop-punk and "scene" bands that were starting up at the same time. There are moments of genuine brilliance and slick production sprinkled throughout the album and with Babyface and Butch Walker working on the album, it's not hard to see where there influences shine through.

Songs like "This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race," "Hum Hallelujah," and "I'm Like a Lawyer With the Way I'm Always Trying to Get You Off (Me & You)," show an exhaustive understanding of structure, melody, and to a degree, a phenomenal reboot of the mid-90s "post rock" sound. Butch Walker's production skills shine through on many of the later tracks, such as "The Carpal Tunnel of Love" and "Bang the Doldrums," at least to my ears. Babyface's input definitely gave the album that little bit of soul that was needed to let Patrick Stump break out of his slurred pop-punk whine and evolve into a sort of punk Joe Cocker. There's a swagger in his voice on just about every track throughout the album and without that swagger, this album probably would have just been tossed away and forgotten as "that band's major label sophomore slump."

Lyrically speaking, there are moments of truly decent songwriting. "Hum Hallelujah" is a brilliant little tune full of whimsical analogies, "Thriller" felt like a great little retrospective on the massive success of this formerly little-known band (Jay-Z's voice came as a welcome surprise), "This Ain't a Scene..." a damn fine critique of the "scene" (whatever the hell it was at that time and place), and "Don't You Know Who I Think I Am?" contains a great deal of little witticisms emboldened by the catchy hand-clapped rhythm. Overall, the lyrics and content of this album are very diverse and almost unorthodox to a degree. I will give Pete Wentz a lot of credit for his growth on this album. Does it mean I respect him? Not at all, but the fact that he was willing to grow with the band's sound is respectful.

I was really blown away by this album, and I will admit to being something of an admirer of Fall Out Boy. I wouldn't say I'm a fan, but I do appreciate the work they've done over the course of seven-odd years. This album ranks high on my list of "Great Listens All the Way Through." So, until Patrick Stump drops his solo album, I'll be more than content with Infinity on High.

Letter Grade: A-