Many a band has stumbled trying to take a cult following with them into the uber-mainstream. However, since re-forming in 2013, Fall Out Boy have edged further away from their emo/pop-punk roots while continuing to top the US charts. Yet last year’s single Young and Menace – a venture into EDM that referenced Britney Spears’s Oops! … I Did It Again – misfired so badly that Mania was hastily rerecorded.
That ghastly horror kicks off proceedings here, but elsewhere they’ve not retreated into their comfort zone. Crunchy guitars happily nestle alongside David Guetta-type beats, Justin Timberlake-style slink, dewy R&B, reggae and brash, arena-tailored pop hooks. Champion introduces Bad-era Michael Jackson to rap-pop-punk. Church is naughty gospel (“If you were a church I’d get down on my knees”), while Hold Me Tight or Don’t – a Shakira-type Europop wobbler with whistling – seems to have been mischievously designed to appal the hardcore.
And yet, buried in the plastic crunch lurks the emo Fall Out Boy. “I’ll stop wearing black when they make a darker colour,” Patrick Stump sings on Wilson (Expensive Mistakes), which blasts the Clash’s Straight to Hell kind of shimmer through a processor stuffed with female whoah-whoahs. Electro-rock stomper The Last of the Real Ones boisterously celebrates punky misfit culture. Mania doesn’t have enough big tunes like that one to really pull it off, but the band deserve a lot of credit for such continual reinvention.