"Honestly, we have never been a critically acclaimed band or 'cool' band, but we have always moved the needle because of our fans and we don't want that to change."
Fall Out Boy bassist/lyricist Pete Wentz wrote that blog entry a few weeks before finishing "Folie à Deux," the band's fourth full-length album. Although the group has grown exponentially in its seven-year existence - from an opening band at VFW Halls to headlining arenas and topping the music charts - there's a consistency to the group that can't be measured simply by record or ticket sales. "Folie" may not initially sound like the same band that was berthed in the Chicago punk/hardcore scene, but it inhabits the same spirit. It's adventurous, vibrant and, well, damn catchy - all characteristics that the band and its fanbase have come to expect over the last decade.
"We still feel like we're the same band as the one that did [2003 breakthrough] 'Take This to Your Grave,'" frontman Patrick Vaughn Stump said in an interview just before the album's completion. "I could never write that record again, but as far as we're motivated, we're doing the same thing, we're doing it the same way as we ever did."
Remarkably, "Folie à Deux" feels both like result of seven years of hard work and something that could only be produced right now. It's both cynical and hopeful, lyrically and musically challenging, personal and political, and easily the most diverse record FOB has ever recorded.
This is what "Folie" isn't: a "grown up" record (read: boring, middle-of-the-road); if anything, the album - whose title translates as "a madness shared by two" - is the most hard-hitting album in the band's career. That fact is made abundantly clear during the first single, "I Don't Care"; over a heavy percussive stomp, Stump wails "I don't care what you think/as long as it's about me." The joke here is that, while the song has the feel of a great glam rock anthem (a la Gary Glitter), the singalong features a rather "awful" message, according to the singer.
"People don't care about anything but the superficial, and that's tragic," he says. "So this is sort of an ironic anthem. You almost don't want to sing along to it. I wanted people to be confronted by the message."
Although Wentz has claimed the record "isn't overtly political," there is some social commentary coursing through "Folie." On "Coffee's for Closers," Stump sings "Throw your cameras in the air/and wave 'em like you just don't care." According to the singer, the chorus ("change will come, but I will never believe in anything again"), takes a cynical view of the idealism of the 90s and how the prevailing culture seems to further tilting toward the celebrity. "I think people stopped believing in the goodwill of man and or that you can change the world or do any good," he says.
Musically, "Folie" finds the band heading out into a number of new, often epic directions, from Beatlesque harmonies ("America's Suitehearts," "20 Dollar Nose Bleed") to the symphonic flourishes throughout "Coffee's for Closers." Most impressive is "What a Catch, Donnie," a slow-building, all-star singalong featuring Elvis Costello, Panic at the Disco's Brendon Urie, Gym Class Heroes frontman Travis McCoy, Alex deLeon of The Cab and William Beckett of The Academy Is.
For fans of the groove-oriented approach utilized on last year's "Infinity on High," the record ups that ante as well. Lil Wayne makes an appearance on the hip-hop tinged "Tiffany Blews," while a robotic funk drives The Neptunes-produced "w.a.m.s" and the first half of "Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown on a Bad Bet" (which eventually gives way to a more grand, piano-based rocker).
No stranger to grand concepts in the past, the band recently launched a viral marketing campaign for the album entitled "Citizens for Our Betterment," which starting off as a series of cryptic web messages and eventually included a free download mixtape of new and demo songs from FOB and various Decaydance bands. In the spirit of working with his audience, Wentz says it may continue on some other form completely. "The whole campaign is part of the record ... the mixtape was part of that campaign, and we'll see what happens from here. I know people have been talking about it being a viral campaign, but the thing is, we're changing what we're doing every day. And in creating this autocratic organization, we created a democratic campaign, because people have made it go the direction they wanted it to go."
In the end, "Folie à Deux" is simply the artistic statement Fall Out Boy wanted to make in 2008. "I love this record, [but] do I think anyone else is going to love it? I really don't know," Stump wondered recently. "Why do we make records? Because we want to say something. The second you don't have anything to say, you stop making art - you might start making product. And I'm interested in being an artist."
A QUICK HISTORY...
Fall Out Boy formed in 2001 in the suburbs of Chicago. By 2003, the group had released its first full-length (Evening Out with Your Girl) and signed a deal with Fueled by Ramen, a label owned by Less Than Jake drummer Vinnie Fiorello and his partner John Janick.
The group achieved its first taste of mainstream success with the 2003 record, "Take This to Your Grave," a pop-punk masterpiece that revitalized what had been a tired genre. After several high-profile tours, the band released its biggest-selling album to date, 2005's "From Under the Cork Tree," which landed two songs ("Sugar We're Going Down" and "Dance Dance") in the Billboard Top Ten. The band was also nominated for a Grammy for Best New Artist.
During this time, the group branched out creatively, with bassist Wentz refining his record label imprint Decaydance (home to Panic at the Disco) and singer Stump appearing as a guest singer and producer on a number of records, including the Gym Class Heroes hit "Cupid's Chokehold." The band also continued to support several non-profit groups, including Invisible Children, Reverb and Rock the Vote.
In 2007, the group released the #1 record "Infinity on High" and began a series of headline arena tours. The band also attempted to enter the Guinness Book of World Records by playing all seven continents - sadly, weather prevented the group from entering Antarctica.
Earlier this year, Wentz hosted a music show, "FNMTV," on MTV. The band also released a live CD/DVD package, "**: Live in Phoenix," featuring a cover of Michael Jackson's "Beat It."