CD Review of Infinity on High by Fall Out Boy

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Infinity on High
starstarstarhalf starno star Label: Island
Released: 2007
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Cons: The first voice you hear on this record is Jay-Z. Considering Fall Out Boy comprises white Illinois suburbanites playing power punk-pop, that sticks out — and not in a good way, but more like a herpes lesion on the upper lip of America's Next Top Model. That's one thing. Next, while the band probably thinks its song titles are pretty clever ("The Carpal Tunnel of Love," "You're Crashing, But You're No Wave," "The Take Over, the Break's Over"), they're not. They're downright moronic. Then there's the jealousy factor: What adult male wouldn't want to be a 20-something millionaire rock star on the cover of Rolling Stone, with all the perks that come with it?

Pros: Precise, unfailing harmonies. No annoying arrogance or attitude. Fall Out Boy plays together and sings like a beautiful rock machine, the music's polished to a high gloss — they take their craft seriously and don't waste our time with half an effort. They change things up nicely by throwing out sonically complex song structures. Meaning, the Ramones trademarked "verse-chorus-bridge-fade" on every song, and Green Day took that formula to the top of the pop charts. Fall Out Boy owes heavy debts to both those bands, and at least a tip of the hat to the Misfits (you gotta think the "Whoa-oh-oh" chorus in "Bang the Doldrums" was written with Danzig's boys in mind). Yet Fall Out Boy somehow creates its own new flavor of punk-pop in the process, adding tasty little guitar lines where they're not expected, such as thrashy Metallica riffs following a cute harmony as in "Thriller." Or the opposite, a quiet little Latin-jazz acoustic interlude between slam-bang choruses in "Thanks for the Memories."

On paper, that might make the music sound contrived. Yet, somehow, Fall Out Boy's songs hang together well and sound pretty fresh, even though the group's mining the same musical vein people have working since the New York Dolls first discovered it.

In the end, if you've got to hand over the mantle of America's Most Popular Rock Group to someone, you could do a lot worse than Fall Out Boy. For instance, Creed was brutal. Matchbox Twenty was worse. Pearl Jam killed me. The dark days of N'Sync had me contemplating a bullet to the temple just for some sweet relief. While Fall Out Boy's records feature a bit more melodrama than this old punk fan would prefer, the kids are actually pretty good. Give them their due.

~Mojo Flucke, PhD