The more things change, the more they stay the same. Pop-punk quartet Fall Out Boy has been pushing the boundaries of its somewhat arbitrary genre since its formation in 2001, and its latest album, “MANIA,” is no exception.
Released Jan. 19, the Chicago natives’ seventh studio album has been surrounded by drama and intrigue since it was announced in April 2016. The lead single, “Young and Menace,” surprised many fans with its uncharacteristic EDM undertones and sparked discussion about Fall Out Boy’s musical direction. The following single-turned-sports anthem, “Champion,” was also a departure from the band’s typical pairing of bassist Pete Wentz’s meaningful, sometimes unrhymed lyrics with lead vocalist Patrick Stump’s catchy rock melodies.
As if that wasn’t enough, Aug. 3 — just over a month before “MANIA” was originally slated for release — Stump announced on Twitter the album would be delayed until 2018. Despite the disappointing news, the band still went on a fall tour to promote the album, and even played what should’ve been the album release show at Chicago’s House of Blues (329 N. Dearborn St.) Sept. 16.
Thankfully, the wait was worth it.
Each song on “MANIA” is a journey in itself. From the more traditional rock jam, “The Last Of The Real Ones,” to the vaguely reggae-inspired single, “HOLD ME TIGHT OR DON’T,” to the rough around the edges Burna Boy collaboration, “Sunshine Riptide,” “MANIA” is a clear message to Fall Out Boy’s fans: This is one band that won’t be put in a box. Wentz, Stump, guitarist Joe Trohman and drummer Andy Hurley have been challenging and expanding the definition of pop-punk and rock since they released their 2005 single, “Dance, Dance,” which was different than anything else on the radio at the time.
“MANIA” goes further than any of Fall Out Boy’s past albums to raise questions such as, “What really is rock-and-roll?” It’s brave of any band to put out an almost entirely electronic single like “Young and Menace” and still call themselves a “rock” band, but Fall Out Boy pulls it off. The band’s disregard for the “rules” of rock music and willingness to stretch beyond them is the most rockstar attitude possible.
The band hasn’t strayed completely away from its roots, however. The song “Church” is very much a Fall Out Boy song, full of Trohman’s catchy guitar riffs and angsty lyrics such as, “I love the world, but I just don’t love the way it makes me feel.” Closing the album, the heavier track, “Bishops Knife Trick,” sounds like it could belong on the 2008 record, “Folie a Deux.” Longtime fans will recognize Wentz’s signature wordsmithing in lines such as, “I’m struggling to exist with you and without you / I’m just a full tank away from freedom.”
Thematically, “MANIA” deals with feelings of love, nostalgia and jadedness, perhaps referencing the band members’ attitudes toward their 16 years together. It’s a cohesive album sonically and lyrically, and Stump’s insurmountable vocals dominate on each track. One play of the slow, even sensual ballad, “Heaven’s Gate,” will leave long-time fans and new listeners alike slack-jawed and in awe of the Glenview native’s insurmountable voice. As a whole, “MANIA” may be Stump’s most impressive vocal work to date.
In addition to the new album, Fall Out Boy released several new dates for a North American tour in the fall. The biggest show of the tour will be at Wrigley Field Sept. 8, where Fall Out Boy will be joined by fellow Chicago artists Machine Gun Kelly and Rise Against. The Wrigley date will also include exclusive merchandise, VIP packages and a revival of Wentz’s old bar, Angels & Kings, which closed in 2014.
Jan. 19 was a big day for Fall Out Boy, and the band didn’t disappoint. “MANIA” may not be what some fans expected, but it’s an album they’re sure to love if they give it a chance. One listen should be enough to convince those fans that their favorite band isn’t gone, they’ve just grown up.
“MANIA” can be streamed on Spotify, Apple Music and other platforms, as well as purchased on iTunes. Tickets for the upcoming MANIA Tour go on sale Jan. 26 at 10 a.m. and can be purchased at falloutboy.com/tour.
Listen to the album here: