Along with being the most simplistic title that Fall Out Boy have landed on for an album, ‘Mania’ also happens to be the most apt one too for a myriad of reasons. Leading up to its eventual delayed release, initially meaning to drop back in September, the Chicago pop-rockers confirmed that they’d be returning back to the studio, to finish off the album that “just really isn’t ready” and “felt very rushed.”
If that wasn’t enough of a speed bump and cause for confusion and apprehension for their fans, Fall Out Boy came face-to-face with another wall as they steadfast approached its release – having an incorrect ordered trackless on most of its digital formats, resulting in fans ultimately ingesting the recording in an unintended sequence.
Four months later of reworking and fixing up an album that they seemingly weren’t pleased to put out there, ‘Mania’ still doesn’t sound and feel like an album that’s ready, instead showcasing a band that are either facing a personality crisis, or have thrown a varied assortment of shit to the wall and seeing what sticks.
The celebrity culture commentary opener ‘Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea’ brings us into the record with a high-tempo right away, but it’s hard to take it seriously when frontman Patrick Stump starts shouting “Are you smelling that shit?” before we’re lead into the slump of a lacklustre chorus hook.
‘Champion’ relies far too much on repeating the same lines and phrases over and over, and instrumentally and in some of the vocal melodies sounds a little too much like a rehashed version of their older song, ‘Centuries’.
What also brings the record down is its reliance on over-production; a lot of the time the band’s instrumental involvement gets buried in all of the EDM splicing and added layers from the studio. ‘Sunshine Riptide’ thankfully sees a bit more involvement from bassist Pete Wentz, who for the most part seems overly absent in the mix throughout ‘Mania’, but reggae artist Burna Boy‘s feature seems a little disjointed.
Thankfully, there are a handful of saving graces that keeps the album afloat throughout the turbulent and treacherous waves that they’ve manifested for themselves, narrowly avoiding capsizing or becoming a total shipwreck.
‘Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)’ is as close as Fall Out Boy get to their classic pop-rock/pop-punk sound of their pre-hiatus years, and even as recent as 2013’s ‘Save Rock And Roll’. As is Fall Out Boy tradition, there’s a nod to pop culture with 1991’s The Addams Family inspired chorus line of “I’ll stop wearing black when they make a darker colour’, and of course to the Tom Hanks film Cast Away in its title.
‘Church’ also proudly stands atop as one of the strongest songs that the band have penned in the past half a decade. The addition of a huge church choir, pipe organ, and cathedral bells definitely adds a more grand and majestic presence, almost to epic proportions, and allows Stump to show off his own pipes whilst they’re at it.
By contrast, the opinion polarising and EDM heavy cluster fuck that is ‘Young And Menace’ is a surprisingly addictive cut, even if it does leave curtain closer ‘Bishops Knife Trick’ (a reference to the 1986 film, Aliens) feeling like a little bit of an afterthought.
Though admittedly a more solid and concise release than its 2015 predecessor, ‘American Beauty/American Psycho’, throughout its nearly 36-minute runtime ‘Mania’ certainly lives up to its namesake. No one in their right mind would dispute Fall Out Boy‘s courage and ambition to not deliver the exact same album over and over again, but experimentation cannot simply be credited for experimentation’s sake.