Fall Out Boy is still a scrappy live rock band, but its studio confections are now pure pop ear candy. That was evident on 2007’s glossy Infinity on High, and it’s even more the case with Folie à Deux (a title translated as “a madness shared by two”). The album transcends rock’s trappings, in favor of songs influenced by R&B, new wave and glam-funk.
As might be expected, the explorations are hit or miss. “I Don’t Care”—with its Queen-type shrieks and galloping ’80s-funk rhythms reminiscent of Depeche Mode—is insidiously catchy. “(Coffee’s for Closers),” which features stadium-pumping drums and a high-energy strings/guitar mix, is even better. Standout dream-rocker “The (Shipped) Gold Standard” also utilizes tasteful strings and falsetto vocals, while blue-eyed-soul piano and Michael Jackson grooves drive “Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown on a Bad Bet.”
Less successful are the jaunty, horn-blasted pop penny “20 Dollar Nose Bleed,” the emo-disco “w.a.m.s.” (which inexplicably ends with an a cappella blues number) and the ponderous piano-and-strings soul ballad “What a Catch, Donnie.” The latter song features Fall Out Boy pals like Gabe Saporta (Cobra Starship) and Travis McCoy (Gym Class Heroes) singing lines from previous FOB songs, but Elvis Costello’s line is the only one that’s really audible. In fact, overall, Deux’s many cameos add nothing—mainly because contributions from folks like Lil Wayne and Debbie Harry are either too brief, too buried or too digitally manipulated to be distinct.
Lyrically, it’s hard to say what Deux is going on about. (The immortal lines on “Gold Standard” are the album’s highlight sucker-punch: “I wanna scream ‘I love you’ from the top of my lungs, but I’m afraid that someone else will hear me.”) While on past records this obtuse-as-clever motif worked well, on Deux it’s a little distracting. The same thing can be said for the band’s music, which is sometimes trying to go in so many different directions and cram in such stylistic diversity that the songs themselves are overshadowed. But then, as with every Fall Out Boy album, there’s more than enough catchy material to make Deux worth listening to again.