Fall Out Boy: A Love Letter To Folie à Deux
Dear Folie à Deux,
Two things. Firstly, Happy Birthday – I can’t believe you’re turning 10. It seems like just yesterday that I held you in my arms for the first time. How time flies, huh? And secondly, I wanted to say I’m sorry. Sorry for not appreciating you at the time, and realising just what a feat of musicianship you actually are.
When you came out in 2008, you weren’t what we (the Fall Out Boy fans) wanted. You were confusing. Too ‘out there’. Too ahead of your time. Especially in terms of being a follow-on from Infinity On High (my favourite album of all time – meaning you were fucked from the get go).
You were so experimental. You featured instruments we didn’t recognise. Sounds we weren’t familiar with. There was jazz guitar, and so much funk and soul. Our little emo ears just weren’t ready for it.
Your lyrics weren’t what we were used to, either, with you being sold to us as the first album bassist/lyricist Pete Wentz decided to draw outside inspiration for. His autobiographical stuff made it easy for us to relate. We already had it in our heads that you weren’t going to be easily accessible like your predecessors.
Then there were the guests. So many guests. Not just providing back-up vocals like before, but with their own lines. Diehard fans didn’t want their FOB diluted with outsiders. We were all about the full concentrate.
Not only were the fans not feeling you, but it felt like the band weren’t that enamoured at the time, either. They barely toured you compared to previous records, then went on ‘indefinite hiatus’ less than a year later, and that was your lot. While you might not to be blame for their disbandment, you failed to keep them together. The band went away, and you were largely forgotten.
But then something happened.
Halfway through Fall Out Boy’s hiatus, when I realised the enormous void they’d left in my life, I was scrolling through iTunes and spotted your striking red cover art (the one thing I always immediately adored about you) and hit play.
You sounded incredible. Really something.
Maybe I just didn’t give you enough chances (spins) first time round, or maybe my musical palette had matured in those preceding years. But you became new favourite album, and I played you to death. And today? Well, you’re my second favourite Fall Out Boy album, buddy!
In hindsight, I’m in utter disbelief that I couldn’t see how great you were. What was wrong with me? I’ve decided to plea temporary insanity, because some of the things that actively put me off you, are the things that make you so special now.
I felt totally ‘whatever’ about the guest spots before, but now I think they make the record. Frontman Patrick Stump (who sounds phenomenal throughout, btw) and Panic! At The Disco’s Brendon Urie – two of the greatest voices of our generation – dueting on 20 Dollar Nose Bleed? Amazing! The best thing I’ve ever heard, probably. I’d take a whole album full of that.
Then there’s the entire cameo section in What A Catch, Donnie (which is just the most beautiful FOB song ever written). The likes of Brendon, Gym Class Heroes’ Travie McCoy and The Academy Is…’ William Beckett singing lines from old FOB songs punches you straight in the nostalgia feels, and is one of the best moments in music full stop.
Musically, the songs are so interesting and spunky (especially tracks like She’s My Winona – those drums!) and keep you guessing at every turn (the bolshy attitude of Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown On A Bad Bet’s verses into that delicate and moving ‘I will never end up like him’ refrain).
Tonally, it’s rich and warm, and therefore incredibly comforting. Part of that comfort, for me, comes from the sadness and nostalgia felt in songs like The (Shipped) Gold Standard with that delightful ‘plant palm trees on Lake Michigan before it gets cold’ melody line and (Coffee’s For Closers), with its haunting ‘I will never believe in anything again’ drop chorus, and that thrilling Fantasia-like ending. It speaks to my soul in a way that I can’t explain and may never understand.
The lyrics themselves are some of the finest work of Pete’s career. Inspired in places (the ‘Boycott love, detox just to retox’ of Disloyal Order Of Water Buffalos), smart and sassy in others (‘I don’t know much about classic cars, but I got a lot of friends stuck on classic coke’ - America’s Suitehearts). And actually pretty introspective for an album that purports to be the opposite, with my favourite lines like: ‘I don’t just want to be a footnote in someone else’s happiness’ (Headfirst Slide…) and ‘I got troubled thoughts and the self-esteem to match’ (What A Catch, Donnie) resonating with me. I’ve always loved the, ‘Three… two… one… we go live’ part on Tiffany Blews, too. It’s so lyrically detailed, that every time I listen, even now, I hear something I’d never picked up on before, or that I can appreciate in a whole new way.
They say great art speaks for itself. Which is why, actually, we didn’t need to understand you, Folie à Deux. You were always an outstanding collection of songs, whether we were forward-thinking enough to realise it or not.
But the effort we put into figuring you out, and trying to understand something that once seemed alien to us, makes you all the more special. You were so fresh and new that we shouldn’t have expected to like you straight away, because we had nothing to compare you to.
You’ll be pleased to hear that things are different now. When Fall Out Boy put out music we don’t understand at first (there’s this song called Young And Menace and you’d lose your mind if you weren’t a CD and could actually listen to it), we trust them and go with it. And maybe we have you to thank for that.
Because, turns out Fall Out Boy know what we need before we even know we need it.
One of your biggest fans – @nyferjay
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Norma Jean’s mysterious eighth studio album will be titled All Hail.