A Mixed Bag of an Album That (in a way) Perfectly Lives Up to its Name. (Fall Out Boy – “Mania” album review)

fall out boy maniaA new Fall Out Boy album has been released, which means it’s time for me to revisit my days as a pop-punk kid! Released by Island Records and DCD2, Mania is the seventh studio album from Fall Out Boy and the followup to 2015’s American Beauty/American PsychoMania features a runtime of 36 minutes and contains the songs Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea”, “The Last of the Real Ones”, “Hold Me Tight or Don’t”, “Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)”, “Church”, “Heaven’s Gate”, “Champion”, “Sunshine Riptide (featuring Burna Boy)”, “Young and Menace”, and “Bishops Knife Trick”. 

So, it’s no big secret that I prefer pre-hiatus Fall Out Boy to post-hiatus Fall Out Boy. My favorite Fall Out Boy album is 2008’s Folie à Deux after all. So, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I don’t adore Mania. Personally, I feel like Fall Out Boy came back strong with 2013’s Save Rock and Roll and then never managed to hit those heights – or the heights of their pre-hiatus days – again, and Mania definitely doesn’t buck that trend. It’s not that it’s a bad album; far from it, in fact. It’s just also not particularly amazing either. For every really good song on the album, there’s another song that’s just mediocre or blatantly awful. More on that in a bit.

I should preface the rest of this review by saying that it’s clear that this album was not made for me. In general, I don’t much like what’s on Top-40s radio nowadays. I don’t say that in a condescending way; though I do often feel like what’s considered popular in mainstream music lacks a certain authenticity that popular music of the past had, I generally don’t believe in shaming people for liking what they like. I don’t like most of the music on the radio, but kudos to those who do. Mania represents the latest attempt by Fall Out Boy to stay relevant in a music industry that has largely forgotten rock bands. In that regard, I applaud Fall Out Boy for continuing to evolve their sound in ways that should help them continue to have a thriving career, even if I don’t care much for those evolutions.

As for the music itself, it’s a mixed bag. I really like a few of the songs, namely “The Last of the Real Ones”, “Hold Me Tight or Don’t”, and “Wilson (Expensive Mistakes”. I really dislike a few of the songs, namely “Young and Menace” (you can read more about my feelings towards this song in particular elsewhere on the blog), “Stay Frosty”, and “Church”. The rest of the album I find to be mostly mediocre, essentially being the epitome of everything I don’t like about current popular music. The reason I love those songs I mentioned boils down to the experimentation that Fall Out Boy does through those songs. “Hold Me Tight or Don’t” seems to borrow some inspiration from reggae, “The Last of the Real Ones” reminds me of the best songs on Save Rock and Roll – an album that I did enjoy for the most part, and “Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)” is just really fun. The reason I really dislike the songs I mentioned boils down to the fact that they’re just unpleasant to listen to. They’re either boring and uninspired (“Stay Frosty Royal Milk”, “Church”) or they’re actually annoying and unpleasant (“Young and Menace”).

It’s in this mixed bag of songs that Mania actually comes into its own. The definition of mania is a “mental illness marked by periods of great excitement, euphoria, delusions, and overactivity.” In a way, the album perfectly represents that with its mix of quality. Some songs are really good, representing the periods of great excitement and euphoria; some songs are just mediocre, representing periods of delusion; and then some songs are just bad and unpleasant, representing periods of overactivity and the subsequent exhaustion and other mental lows that follow from that. The fact that the quality of the songs on Mania is so inconsistent actually ends up perfectly representing the title of the album.

Mania‘s not a bad album. It’s about on par with 2015’s American Beauty/American Psycho. Some songs are delightful and catchy, some are really awful, and others are just mediocre and forgettable. But it’s still Fall Out Boy. It’s nice to see them continuing to make music and continuing to stay relevant this long into their career. I recognize that Mania is not an album that was made for me. It’s not an album that’s made for hardcore fans of Fall Out Boy’s pre-hiatus sound; it’s an album made for fans of today’s popular music. Does it succeed in that regard? I dunno. I’m the wrong person to ask about today’s popular music. Is it worth checking out? Sure. If you have ever liked a Fall Out Boy song, you’ll probably find something to like on this album.

(3 out of 5 wands)

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