Fall Out Boy has reached its experimental phase.
It makes sense that the Chicago quartet follows "Save Rock and Roll," their bid to bring rock back to pop radio, with their vision of what rock and roll should become.
The resulting "American Beauty/American Psycho" (DCD2/Island) album takes a page from hip-hop's playbook and applies it to rock. Rather than striving for a specific rock sound, Fall Out Boy borrows from other genres and other rock incarnations to craft something new and uniquely theirs.
There is plenty of sampling on "American Beauty/American Psycho," with bits of Motley Crue's "Too Fast for Love" on the title track, part of Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner" on the first single "Centuries," and, brilliantly, the theme from "The Munsters" on "Uma Thurman."
"Uma Thurman" is the best of these creations, with the unmistakable sample adding to the song's vibe but never overpowering it. The song is overstuffed with ideas -- from pop culture references to hip-hop breaks and surf guitar flourishes -- in order to better compete with the shortening attention spans of pop radio listeners.
The same goes for the already-platinum "Centuries," which packs so much into four minutes that it takes repeated listenings just to figure out what's happening. (Be sure to pay attention to how the pitch-changing on Patrick Stump's vocals in "Novocaine" create that woozy-in-the-dentist's-chair feeling.)
As engaging as these intricately crafted musical monuments to the way the Internet-surfing brain works are, though, the band is far more effective when it simply lets the songs unfold.
"The Kids Aren't Alright" lets Stump's emotional vocals shine and give Pete Wentz's clever turns of phrase the space to be appreciated. ("I'm not passive, but aggressive," Stump croons. Later, he declares, "It's our time now if you want it to be. Maul the world like the carnival bear set free.")
On "Jet Pack Blues," the simple message of "Baby, come home" draws power from the repetition and the battle between gorgeous melody and roaring guitars.
"American Beauty/American Psycho" is filled with such complexities, but the result ends up being quite simple. Fall Out Boy is currently rock's band to beat.
THE GRADE A