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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Infinity On High

Fall Out Boy’s latest album Infinity On High begins with applause and Jay-Z’s invocation. The boys from Chicago seem to know they’ve made it, and this album is confident in its cleverness and catchiness.

In my humble opinion, the hero of this album (if not the band—I’m not a connoisseur of theirs, but I can take an educated guess) is the lead singer, even if he’s not “the cute one.” (Pete Wentz is the bassist. Patrick Stump is the one second from the right.) He’s sincerely a white boy with soul. His voice carries weight and grit but can also soar into a strong falsetto and his riffing skills are addicting.

On “The Take’s Over, the Break’s Over,” he invokes Adam Levine (and I mean that in the best way possible). His battle cry on the rock operatic “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s a Goddamn Arms Race” aches for an arena. (In fact, it ends with an intense call and response.) His falsetto on “Hum Hallelujah” impresses. On the bridge of their current single, “Thks for the Mmrs,” accompanied by Spanish guitar that comes out of nowhere, he growls “Get me out of my mind/Get you out of those clothes.” And his riff at the end of “Bang the Doldrums” soars the track to its incredible climax.

There’s an interesting element on this album too, courtesy of incredible production. Not only are Stump’s vocals the star, but the background vocalists often steal the songs. They take over during the straight-from-Leonard-Cohen “Hallelujah” chorus during “Hum Hallelujah,” and the effect is striking. On “Golden,” the piano ballad on the album, the simplicity of the song itself is intense in contrast to the other harder driving songs, but the chorus and piano take it to further intensity as it concludes. “Thks for the Mmrs,” includes techno-like “One. Night. Stand. Oh,” which seriously makes the song for me, even though I can’t necessarily explain why.

The band’s inspirations are obvious. “The Take’s Over, the Break’s Over” is heavily Maroon 5-influenced. “Bang the Doldrums” sounds like Green Day, and “You’re Crashing, But You’re No Wave” begins with drums that sound like a Strokes track and a baritone part of Stump’s range we haven’t heard earlier on the album. There is serious 80s influence on “The (After) Life of the Party,” and the beginning of “I’ve Got All This Ringing in My Ears and None on my Fingers” sounds like the beginning of the finale in Fame.

Plus, these boys are clever. (My favorite track name is “I’m Like a Lawyer with the Way I’m Always Trying to Get You Off (Me&You).”) And by the time the applause at the end of the album is followed by the robotic voice, I can’t help but obey it. “Now press repeat.” I do. Over and over.

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