Folie a Deux: A Madness Shared By Two

Rarely older generations take Fall Out Boy as a serious band. This opinion, as it happens from generation to generation with popular music, is typical. No parent understands their child’s favorite band and vice versa. However, as someone who grew up more familiar with La Boheme and Rachmaninoff than anything playing on the radio, I can hardly say pop music is my favorite genre. That being said, Fall Out Boy remains the exemplary exception amongst millennial bands. Is every song  they’ve made stellar? Of course not. But their records, especially in the earlier days when they had more freedom, exude the authenticity of youthful flippancy and heartbreak. Their writing style can be categorized by the following: a crack of a joke to hide the fact that you’re talking about the place buried beneath rock bottom. The self-loathing which is so deeply intertwined with the self-doubt you call it love. Anxiety. Depression. Longing. Folie a Deux remains their strongest example of what it means to make a perfect album during the wrong time. With the lowest sales and poor crowd response, you wouldn’t believe to say it’s an album that’s by and far, the most cherished to any fan of the band.

(Source: Eloise, Marianne)

The title, no doubt borrowed from lyricist Pete Wentz’ University studies where he was a psychology major, means a “madness shared by two.” As someone who openly speaks about being bisexual, biracial, and bipolar, duality is something that he is all too familiar with. This dichotomy of what is presented on several allegorical levels throughout the album. These include, but aren’t limited to the divide between baby boomers and millennials, American political ruin and rampant idealism, destructive fame and euphoric veneration of the public. Still, on the more personal side, there’s the exploration of narcissism and crushing self-doubt,  mania and depression, youth and age, love and despair and …

Pete Wentz and Patrick Stump.

The dynamic duo of self-depreciation. Lyricist and Lead Singer.

While lead guitarist Joe Trohman and drummer Andy Hurley will be discussed for their own fantastic craftmenship, Wentz’s writing focuses on the relationship between him and Stump. It is cleverly artful enough that he knows how to weave a fictitious narrative around the truth; a battle of two men echoing each other’s neurosis’. A literary metonymy for the divide between everything he turns them into an archetypically obsessive Jekyll and cantankerous Hyde in which neither feels particularly sane.

However, it’s the way in which this duality is lyrically represented that’s so fascinating. While there’s more allusions than one can possibly put in a single review (yes, you can see my annotation for the whole album, lovingly done in chicken scratch)  I’ll use “Coffee’s for Closers” as the example. The lyrics contain the follow pattern of opposition: “I’m the mascot for what you’ve become/But I love the mayhem more than the love,” “I’m a loose bolt/Of a complete machine,” “what a match, I’m half doomed/and you’re semi-sweet.” “When they made me they broke the mold/girls used to follow me around until I grew cold,” and perhaps the most flippantly brutal “Oh, change will come/I will never believe in anything again.”  

This continues on in “Disloyal Order of The Water Buffalos” with the rhetoric of “boycott love/detox just to retox” and “I Don’t Care” with “the best of us can find happiness in misery.  

“Headfirst Slide Into Cooperstown,” a gauzy, fever-fit of an affair-fantasy in which “I will never end up like him/behind my back I already am,” is first uttered, the echo of what’s to come. “She’s my Winona” and “w.a.m.s.” gear towards the existential: Life’s just a pace-car on death only less diligent/and when the two collide, it’s no coincidence,” “my head’s in heaven/my soles are in hell,” and “hurry, hurry, you put my head in such a flurry/I’m gonna leave you, teach you, how we’re all alone.”

The sound of the album is second to none. Each time Stump croons in his Costello-inspired vocals about “pupil dilation,”  one must recognize how extraordinary Trohman riffs are. A keen follower of Johnny Marr and 80’s fuzz, they bask in a headspace that’s as lush and inviting as it is dangerous. Notably highlighted on “Tiffany Blews,” “West Coast Smoker,” and “America’s Suitehearts.” Andy Hurley, their demurely vegan drummer puts every bit of spitfire rage to Trohman’s guitars. Precise and fervent, when Stump sings “Kick drum beating in my chest again,” I know it to be true as another flawless roll hits.

As for the rhetoric of “I will never end up like him/behind my back I already am”  this line appears on “What A Catch, Donnie,” which is the pinnacle of the album. A song that’s equal parts power ballad and wise-aleck anthem, it celebrates the ravine of the bands career and also acts as a eulogy. With guest appearances from fellow label mates Brendon Urie to Stump’s on idol Elvis Costello. Overblown and melodramatic, it’s the perfect juxtaposition of  extroversion with the sparse refrain of “I’ve got troubled thoughts and the self-esteem to match, what a catch.” Turning a time that was miserable for the band members and the person listening to the album alike, it commiserates. Offering some form of a salve, there is something existentially comforting that the answer to Headfirst Slide snide remark is the flip-side of “The last time you came through/Oh darling, I know what you’re going through.”


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