Fall Out Boy released “Young and Menace” today, their first single in over two years. The song begins with the comforting sound of what we’ve come to expect from post-hiatus Fall Out Boy; a slow but optimistic piano carries Patrick Stump’s smooth and only-ever-slightly-controlled vocals toward the start of a steady drumbeat.
The lyrics here are familiar too, as they pick up on a narrative that we can see carried through from Take This To Your Grave, showing us once more that Pete Wentz is always writing and re-writing what we may or may not accept as his own construction of himself: one of the first lines of “Young and Menace”, ‘I’ve lived so much life I think God is gonna have to kill me twice’ seems to be the natural continuation of ‘I’ve read about the afterlife but I’ve never really lived’ (Take This To Your Grave, 2003), ‘The only thing I haven’t done yet is die’ (Infinity on High, 2006), and ‘I need more dreams and less life’ (Save Rock and Roll, 2013), and it’s a continuation that is so incredibly characteristic of Wentz in that it is simultaneously self-referential, self-deprecating, and self-congratulatory. He achieves this again in the lines, ‘I forgot what I was losing my mind about / Oh, I only wrote this down to make you press rewind’ which embeds within itself so many references to other Fall Out Boy songs that it seems useless to try to list them all here.
The music video is mostly unremarkable in that way most Fall Out Boy videos are: they seem, more than anything else, to show the possible tension between Pete Wentz’s sometimes questionable dedication to conceptual images and Patrick Stump’s could-take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward them. I can’t say for sure that the video for this single was a Pete Wentz concept, but you can see this tension most vividly in the video for “Sugar We’re Going Down”, in which the love between two human-deer hybrid teenagers has very little to do with the lyrics of the song.
But in other areas of the Wentz-Stump songwriting relationship and the products it yields, there is no tension at all. The collaboration is perhaps most effective in the song’s Britney Spears reference: the “Oops, I did it again” in the second verse. This otherwise throwaway reference is highlighted by Stump’s smooth and brief transition in and out of Spears’ trademark nasal vocals here. One thing that can be said about this moment is that it is somewhat prophetic, ushering in the rather unexpected pop-electronica bridge that we get next:
If I am off the deep end
I’m just here to become the best yet
I’m just here for the psych assessment
I’m just here for the the
Lyrically, again, these lines are pure Fall Out Boy but it is the fractured, stuttered quality of the electronic style and Stump’s ability to pack so much into a single, short line that gives this bridge, as the climax of the song in lieu of a proper chorus, an overwhelming erratic feeling.
Fall Out Boy has always been eager to dive into new styles and genres, each new album sounding both familiar and drastically different from the last. Should the full LP (due out this fall) be a full-on experiment with the pop-electronica sound, this first flirtation seems to show that the band will not neglect the narrative arc it’s spent the last fifteen years building. •
Photo: Getty Images for CBS Radio