Review: Mania by Fall Out Boy

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I’ve been a Fall Out Boy fan since my freshman year of high school when a girl at my bus stop introduced me to them. They’re probably the band that I’ve been actively keeping tabs on for the longest, and also they’re one of two bands where I know all the members’ names. (Fun Fact: the other one is Rammstein.)

So suffice it to say, I was very, VERY excited when I heard Mania was coming out, although since they announced it with the first single in April 2017, I had a very, VERY long wait. (The album was originally supposed to be released in the summer, but they pushed back the release date so they could scrap most of the album and write new songs. [Source]) In fact, the wait was so long that I very nearly forgot about it, but lucky for me, I remembered, because there is some very, VERY enjoyable music on this album.

There are a lot of the hallmarks of Fall Out Boy here, such as big, booming, inspirational choruses, titles that have nothing to do with the content of the songs, and lyrics that occasionally sound like the poetry a high school freshman would write and think was so cool even though it’s kind of awful. It’s not my favorite of their albums (that would be Folie a Deux), but it’s pretty solid!

Before I go into a song by song breakdown, I’d also like to put it out there that I have one major complaint regarding the packaging! I’m a big physical media person, so of course I bought the CD instead of buying it from iTunes or whoever else sells MP3s nowadays. The color combination chosen for the tracklist on the back cover makes it nearly unreadable in anything other than bright daylight. AWFUL graphic design choices were made here.

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WHO DESIGNED THIS??

And now for the breakdown. I’m going by the order of the songs on the CD, which is apparently different than other places such as Spotify for whatever reason. So don’t be confused if you’ve seen a different album order elsewhere!

Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea: The beginning of this song kind of alarmed me when I started up the album for the first time — it was kind of like being musically punched in the face. The lyrics are both cheesy (“Are you smelling that shit? Eau de resistance!) and inspirational (“The only thing that’s ever stopping me is me.”). Musically it’s fun to listen to. I like it!

Last of the Real Ones: Definitely one of the songs that feels more focused and tells a clear story without having to read into the lyrics too much. It’s catchy. Kind of in the middle for me in terms of the songs on this album, but on the upper end of middle. I’ve linked the music video here so you can hear it, but it’s kind of….weird (I’m not crazy about the llamas), and sort of makes me feel like they needed to to make the video cheaply so they reused the costumes from Young and Menace because they already had them.

Hold Me Tight Or Don’t: This feels like a super boppy summer song. It’s definitely one of my top favorites from this album and it makes me want to dance. The lyrics are kind of disjointed, but I do get the overall sense we’re talking about a friends with benefits or on and off kind of relationship here. The lyrics are CATCHY though, and I really like the way some of them sound individually. (ie: “I took too many hits off this memory // I need to come down.”) I can totally understand why they chose to make a music video for this one, although only the good lord knows why they picked a Day of the Dead theme.

Wilson (Expensive Mistakes): I’ll be honest, I’m not crazy about this one at all. I feel like it’s lyrically weak. “I’ll stop wearing black when they make a darker color,” feels like it would fit right in on the album that made them go mainstream, From Under the Cork Tree. And, no lie, the first time I heard the line, “I became such a strange shape from trying to fit in,” the image that popped into my head was Spongebob when he became round from trying to be too normal.

Normal

It honestly feels like the most disjointed song on the album to me, like it’s just a bunch of different lines mashed together. The video makes me laugh a lot, and it seems like the guys had fun making it, but it does not make me like this song any better.

Church: I’m always drawn to weird, overly dramatic songs, so of course this is my favorite song on the album. There’s a big beautiful chorus that I’ve had a lot of fun belting out in the car, but I was originally annoyed because I thought it didn’t relate to the verses at all. However, then when I was reading the album booklet and actually understanding all of the words Patrick was singing my dormant English Major training rose from the grave and I felt like I could write a traditional five paragraph persuasive literary analysis essay with the thesis, “Fall Out Boy loves and worships fame, despite the negative aspects of it.” Spotting the wordplay in, “Take the pain / make it billboard [Billboard? ; ) ] big,” was a lightbulb moment for me. The bridge section often gives me chills, and I love how Patrick really gets to show off his vocal range. I’m not at all crazy about the video, but I need you to hear this song.

Heaven’s Gate: I think this one is my least favorite, despite the fact that the chorus has a nasty tendency to get stuck in my head. I like the oldies vibe, but that’s pretty much the only thing I like. The lyrics are kind of goofy, despite the sweet subject matter of wanting to be in heaven with a loved one. Meh.

Champion: This is one of the songs they kept when they overhauled the album. It’s got one of those big anthemic Fall Out Boy chrouses. “If I could live through this, I can do anything,” is something I’ve been repeating to myself as a mantra since I heard it, since I’m in a very unhappy place in my professional life at the moment. It’s a solid song, nothing too exciting or original, but still good.

Sunshine Riptide: This one is way down on the totem pole for me. I just find it a little boring, but that’s okay, that’s just my opinion. I don’t really have a lot to say. It just feels a little pedestrian to me.

Young and Menace: I have serious mixed feelings about this song. I LOVE the verses, both lyrically and musically. When I first heard it back in April I was like, “Oh my god, I love this song.” And then the “chorus” arrived. It was SO jarring. I’m not super into dubstep/super electronic music, so I’m not into the nonsense they’ve put between the verses at all. I didn’t actually time it, but I’d estimate that probably about a minute of this nearly four minute song is taken up by this thing that I don’t like. Also, there’s a sound in those bits that’s basically a car horn, which can be disorienting when you’re listening to the song while driving.

I can appreciate a band trying to do something new and different than what they’ve done, but that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it. Also, the music video is pretty weird and really did a lot to put me off the song as well, tbh. (If you’re curious, this is the other song they kept from the original version of Mania.)

Bishops Knife Trick: This seems to me like another rumination on fame. (“I’m struggling to exist with you // and without you.”) It’s not one of my favorites, but it’s not awful. It’s a pretty solid song. Not much to say about this one.

So there you have it, my thoughts about the newest album by one of my all time favorite bands! If you like the music in the videos I’ve linked, then I definitely think that Mania is worth purchasing (or streaming someplace if you can’t spare the cash).

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