Comebacks are hard, and Fall Out Boy’s should have been impossible. Their brand of mid-aughts suburban teen angst—augmented by dopey song titles like ”Champagne for My Real Friends, Real Pain for My Sham Friends”—was not built for graceful aging. But after a five-year break, they returned in 2013 with Save Rock and Roll, an improbably exhilarating blast of modern arena rock that evolved from the band’s radio-emo roots into a bolder, grander pop experiment.
American Beauty/American Psycho, the quartet’s sixth studio album, is even better, and reveals them as perhaps the only current mainstream rock combo capable of making big-venue sing-alongs that also reward deep headphone analysis. Songs like ”Favorite Record” and ”Fourth of July” are thrillingly layered, but FOB’s got a tight sample game, too: ”Uma Thurman” borrows the theme to The Munsters, while ”Centuries” turns Suzanne Vega’s hypnotic 1987 hit ”Tom’s Diner” into an anthem that should soundtrack championship-trophy-hoisting montages for decades.
Fall Out Boy are clearly concerned with their place in the pantheon. Frontman Patrick Stump expends a lot of his expressive tenor singing about memory and legacy—the kind of conscious legend-building that could be heavy-handed. But against all odds, the goofy dudes who made their name with ”Sugar, We’re Going Down” have claimed an elusive status as elder statesmen who still have both ideas in their skulls and fire in their bellies. A