What a difference two years make. When Fall Out Boy released From Under the Cork Tree in 2005, they were just another band making their major label debut. When the band released “Sugar We’re Going Down” that summer, Fall Out Boy went from a struggling mid-level band to the top tier of the mainstream music machine. Infinity on High shows a band trying to live up to their superstar name, but falls into many of the traps that plague modern music.
The album has a strong beginning. The opening track, “Thriller,” features a surprisingly good cameo from Jay-Z and some muscular guitar riffing. “The Takes Over, The Breaks Over” and “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s An Arms Race” are excellent pop songs, and contain the anthemic hooks the band is known for. The songs feature flourishes of electronic instrumentation, which gives them a kinetic energy. Unfortunately, the band is unable to keep up the pace.
Infinity on High starts to fall apart with “I’m Like a Lawyer,” the album’s fourth track. The song is catchy enough, but sounds like a Maroon 5 b-side, with lead singer Patrick Stump pretending to be Adam Levine. “Hum Hallelujah” starts off as an enjoyable slice of emo pop, but ends with an out of place female choir. A choir is bad enough, but when they start chanting Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” it becomes laughable. The first half of the album has flaws, but by the second half the flaws become gaping holes.
Fall Out Boy have been praised for their witty and self-deprecating lyrics, all of which are penned by bassist Pete Wentz. The praise has obviously gone to Wentz’s head, because the second half of Infinity on High contains some of the worst lyrics ever committed to tape. “Golden” is the worst of the bunch, a self-important, bloated, pretentious Coldplay ripoff. Lyrics like “I saw God cry in the reflection of my enemies,” are delivered without a trace of irony. Wentz probably wrote such lyrics in an effort to seem deep, but instead comes off as a shallow kid trying to sound smart.
After “Golden,” the album is unable to get back on track. Once pretentiousness rears its ugly head, it’s hard to take Wentz and company seriously. They attempt to go back to their roots with songs like “The Carpal Tunnel of Love,” but once a guy claims that he has seen God cry, it’s hard to believe he has relationship problems.
Infinity on High could have been a decent album. Fall Out Boy’s willingness to expand their sound is honorable, and they can write really great pop songs. While the group’s ambitions are honorable, they are what kill the album. Fall Out Boy became popular because they presented themselves as the ultimate underdogs. By adding unnecessary frills such as female choirs and string quartets, they have lost the element that made them so appealing in the first place. Fall Out Boy has reached their coveted place at the popular table, but they were more likable when they were playing Dungeons and Dragons.