There are few genres that rely on an almost Darwinian principle of survival as much as the commercial end of hardcore-derived punk that people still insist on calling e**. The likes of Brand New, My Chemical Romance, Panic! At The Disco and, closer to home, Enter Shikari prosper because theyâ€™re brave enough to try something new, whether it be Queen-inspired narrative records about death, or pretending that everyone still listened to rave before the Klaxons.
However, the bands themselves may protest as much as they like, but this self-imposed pressure to grow beyond the recognisable â€˜emoâ€™ sound only serves to draw greater attention to the clichÃ©s theyâ€™re running from, the clichÃ©s that Fall Out Boyâ€™s bassist/lyricist/stripper himself neatly surmised as â€œanytime you see some androgynous dude on stage singing angsty songs about girls in an overly narcissistic/egomaniacal/self-serving way.â€
In this respect â€˜Infinity On Highâ€™ is an important record: itâ€™s seemingly been written with a mindset concerned less with shouting from the rooftops about how experimental or radical it is, but instead actually goes all out with the pop guns blazing, a philosophy cemented on the first single â€˜This Ainâ€™t A Scene, Itâ€™s An Arms Raceâ€™.
Satirising the aforementioned obsession of their peers with always wanting to stay one step ahead (the title is pretty self-explanatory) all the time coming across like Nâ€™Sync gone gospel is the sound of Fall Out Boy cheekily throwing down the gauntlet. It may be the best thing on â€˜Infinityâ€¦â€™, though any idea that their strongest hand has already been dealt are swiftly discounted by a further clutch of tracks that stand as their finest music to date (â€˜Goldenâ€™, the rubbish piano ballad, and a couple of anonymous formulaic tracks near the end excepted).
Thereâ€™s â€˜Thrillerâ€™, which shakes the band free from any responsibility of scene-leading right from the albumâ€™s start, whilst providing a chorus that could come to be the genreâ€™s epitaph: â€œLong live the car crash hearts/Cry on the couch/All the poets come to lifeâ€. It also features a spoken word intro from Jay-Z, which is amusing for being so un-expected. â€˜Hum Hallelujahâ€™ meanwhile adapts the Leonard Cohen composition into a monster of a love song that will become a staple of mixtapes, the sort of compilations exchanged quietly between young straight-edge couples. And â€˜Iâ€™ve Got All This Ringingâ€¦â€™, a camp interpretation of Oasis covering the theme from Rocky, is only missing scrolling credits to turn into the best possible finale.
So in short the evolution of Fall Out Boy most emphatically doesnâ€™t end here. Theyâ€™re the 21st-century boy band itâ€™s perfectly OK to like: which is a fact more daring and subversive than any number of black-clad concept albums or burlesque dancer-enhanced gigs. Advantage Mr. Wentz.