Fall Out Boy
Infinity on High
uch of the critical antipathy towards emo can be summed up in a few short sentences. Just shy of ten years ago, no mainstream critics were writing about R&B, or even pop music for that matter. So a bunch of people got angry, set up zines and websites, and started writing about that stuff. Eventually they grew up and replaced the people they were rebelling against. We’re now in a world where, in year-end polls, Nelly Furtado ends up with the same "May as well place this" tedium that Radiohead used to receive and Beyonce goes about business exactly like Oasis and Dylan: turn up every 18 months, take a shit on wax, then wait for the pundits to say "Sure, the last bowel movement from these I praised was actually no good, but I really think they've turned a corner here!" So the kids are listening to emo now? And the adults are scared? Good.
What separates emo from most any other genre these days is that these bands are hungry. Even if Coldplay aficionado Jay-Z doesn't like the style, you can pretty much guarantee he wouldn't knock the hustle. Infinity On High is a great NY hip-hop record in everything but sound and location. Hooks, hooks, and more hooks embedded into a stream of issues: a desire to stake out one's territory, a need to take things to the next level (in terms of sales if not sound), a desire to convert mentions on the gossip pages into placement in the history books, and a thank you to the fans, fuck you to the haters. All five borough trademarks.
And like any great hip-hop artist, Fall Out Boy want to be three things: loved, hated, and big. Scrap the third: they want to be the biggest. Those who get their necks broke as they stampede to the front be damned. The song title that fits this ethos best may well be called "The Take Over, The Break's Over," but it's lead single "This Ain't a Scene It's An Arms Race" where they get down to emo-ethering, resplendent with full-scale gospel choir and that thing they used to do in hair metal where they drop the instruments in the chorus so you can hand clap along.
Yeah, they’ve got great song titles ("I'm Like a Lawyer with the Way I'm Always Trying to Get You Off"). And they’ve got great choruses ("Hum Hallelujah"). But FOB stick out like a sore thumb in two respects. One, they're the first band for a long time (and, remember, this is a band aimed at teenage girls) to shove the least attractive member on vocals. No matter how much they spend on styling, Patrick Stump will always look like a dairy farmhand. Thus, two, they've become the first band in a long time (or at least the first band that doesn't play jazz-funk) to be built around their bassist. Peter Wentz: overdoser, webcam exhibitionist, teen mag centerfold... spokesman for a generation?
More like eye-candy and laureate for a part of it. There's always been a suspicion that he's too pretty for this shit anyway (he's "real" attractive, not "guy in a band" attractive), so he cakes his lyrics in swathes of manliness. His muse has moved on from the sports machismo of From Under the Cork Tree (the extended boxing metaphor of "Sugar We're Going Down," the college football tactics of "Dance Dance"). Now he's obsessed with automobile accidents. We're "crashing not like hips or cars, more like p-p-p-parties," we hear a clarion call to "long live the car crash hearts." Then, of course, there's always the car crash that Wentz has been most obsessed with: himself.
So when you see Infinity On High getting praised, don’t bother scoffing. This deserves to get praised. There's a lot on here that's great and pretty much nothing that's bad. FOB have finally worked out their niche as a slightly more roided up new wave band—a group that has enough blue-eyed rock flourishes to ensure that you can carve their name into your arms and go dancing afterwards without having to change the CD.
Reviewed by: Dom Passantino
Reviewed on: 2007-02-09