Fall Out Boy - PAX AM Days EP Review
Posted by Daniel Wilcox on 10.15.2013
Ryan Adams teams up with Fall Out Boy with surprising results.
The first thing you should know about this brand new Fall Out Boy release is that PAX AM Days is a Fall Out Boy album in name only. The eight-track EP is available to purchase digitally or as a bundle with a re-issue of the band's comeback album Save Rock and Roll, originally released earlier this year. In what was described as a “marathon session” back in July of this year, the band locked themselves away in Ryan Adams' PAX Am Studios in Los Angeles, California with the famous producer and put together a dozen or so tracks that would eventually be whittled down to this 13-minute short album unlike anything you've ever heard or imagine you'd here from Pete Wentz's band. Inspired by a desire “to emulate the stuff [they] grew up on,” Fall Out Boy have crafted a genre-hopping, rift-driven quarter-hour slap of punk that is as far removed from their attempts to Save Rock and Roll as one could conceivably imagine, but with what results?
Fall Out Boy - PAX AM Days EP
Fall Out Boy is;
Vocals – Patrick Stump
Guitar – Joe Truhman
Base – Pete Wentz
Drums – Andy Hurley
1. We Were Doomed From the Start (The King is Dead)
2. Art of Keeping Up Disappearances
3. Hot to the Touch, Cold on the Inside
4. Love, Sex, Death
5. Eternal Summer
7. American Made
8. Caffeine Cold Running time: 13:19
PAX AM Days has been heavily marketed towards the band's oldest fans, those that knew them before 2005's hit-packed From Under the Cork Tree and 2007's chart-topping Infinity on High. But the only real comparisons I can draw between this EP and the band's earliest material is a significantly less-polished production, and I do not say that to discredit this record. On the contrary part of its charm is how genuine and raw the band sound.
The album starts with the track “We Were Doomed From the Start” and a raspy voice spluttering the question “Hey darling, know any bands for my... to play for my party?” To this a seductive female replies, “I don't know, how about Fall Out Boy?” And with that we are straight into our first slick baseline; it's incredibly sleazy in its delivery, instantly grabbing the listening by the hand and pulling them in, led by Patrick Stump's crooning announcing “the King is dead!” And then 90-seconds later it's all over just as suddenly as it begun. “Art of Keeping Up Disappearances” follows a slightly different formula, starting frantically as “Doomed” did but quickly a frenzied drumbeat becomes more prominent before a tantilizing solo at the hands of Joe Truhman takes over. This all happens in a mere minute. It's a attention-grabbing one-two punch to the gut of opening tracks and you immediately know that this is far from a typical Fall Out Boy recording.
“Hot to the Touch, Cold on the Inside” is the first instance where you can hear a more traditional pop punk sound solely due to the vocal of Stump who commands the song brilliantly as he opens up with a rebel yell of “they're not taking us alive.” 30-seconds in and it becomes all about the drumming of Hurley dragging the song forward reluctantly by its knuckles. The track manages to anthemic chorus in the space of 85-seconds but it that time it manages to reach an incredible crescendo before pulling us back down to earth. And then we're into the album's single “Love, Sex, Death.” Here Stump tries a few more experimental things with his voice, to the point we're he's almost barking each and every word. It's another very rift-heavy track, a very welcome change from the more melodious direction of their most recent releases.
By now we have a set formula that I fully expect to see repeated for the next few tracks, but instead we go into “Eternal Summer.” The track takes a little bit longer to build, lulling us in with steady drums and Stump's vocal. Then all of a sudden the whole tracks an unscalable wall of noise; the guitar work sounds fantastic, gritty and downright filthy but it's almost drowned out by other sounds. Stump shouts his way through the track, which I can only describe as the proverbial bull in a china shop. It's the least-polished yet most authentic the record has sounded to date. “Demigods” gives us more of the same minus the shouted vocal. Wentz's base and the guitar interweave almost magnetically to the point that you can almost picture the raucousness of the noise emanating from their instruments and it makes for a bizarre and colourful sight. Think Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, the scene with Sex Bob-omb against the Katayanagi twins.
The longer PAX AM Days goes on, the more it the band seems to be enjoying themselves. Whether the tracks were put onto record in the order they were recorded I've no idea, but by the time penultimate track “American Made” hits your ears there's an outright swagger as the band feels more comfortable in their role of punk and hardcore revivalists. “I just want my childhood back,” rants Stump over the most melancholy of guitar-work yet. It's a track less frantic and more methodical in its delivery, but it appears a mere false sense of security as “Caffeine Cold” hits us hard and fast once again, this time straight in the face. Then suddenly the tempo slows down for the bridge, the chorus becomes more melodic and the vocal seems much more deliberate. It's not out of place on the album, and it does feature a slick breakdown towards the end but the track doesn't keep up with the pace of the previous ten-minutes and ends the EP on something of a bum-note.
All in all if you're a fan of the artists who influenced this record, the chances are that you've heard much better than this. It's a bizarre infusion of 70s punk and early-90s hardcore, but it sounds totally original and fresh coming from such a radio-friendly band as Fall Out Boy. To think this is the same band that topped charts this year with “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” is almost unfathomable. At just 13-minutes manages to leave me actually wishing the release had been longer and intrigued to find out what else the band has in their locker. Ryan Adams' production has made Fall Out Boy sound more interesting than they have in at least eight years – not necessarily better but you certainly feel like we're dealing with a band with more in their locker than their back catalogue would have led you to believe. Having previously mastered the art of pop-punk and emo, before returning earlier this year to Save Rock and Roll, now Fall Out Boy are now trying their hand at a hardcore revolution and it's not an utterly pointless attempt. Two days in PAX AM Studios well-spent.
Fall Out Boy - "Love, Sex, Death"
The 411: It's tricky to rate this album simply because it's so left-field for a band like Fall Out Boy to put out this kind of record. Obviously with its short length there is no chance of it out-staying its welcome and I've actually given it four or five listens in the last few days. It pays homage to its influences nicely well maintaining a few Fall Out Boy nuances mostly through Patrick Stump's vocal. The fact that the band was under no pressure with the release makes them sound more free-spirited instrumentally and regardless if you're a fan of the band, I would recommend giving this EP a listen if you're a fan of 70/80s punk or the early to mid-nineties hardcore scene. It doesn't reinvent the wheel but it's an enjoyable listen nonetheless. Thumbs up.