Fall Out Boy’s ‘Mania’ is a good reason to root against capitalism in this week’s Go Slow No

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Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy. Star Tribune

We've got five new albums for you this week, and the worst of 'em will sell the most. No further comment.

The Go! Team—Semicircle

Thirteen years after its debut, this manic pop collective’s cheer squad effervescence is so undiminished, so out of step with our current apocalyptic public temperament, that it’s tempting to accuse its ringleader, compulsively tuneful Brit Ian Parton, of denial, privilege, even outright delusion. But nah—this is just what he does. After dispersing his crew and recording The Scene Between in 2015 with a gaggle of understudies, maybe just to prove that he could (there’s no I in team but there’s sure as hell one in Ian), Parton gets the team back together for a just-like-old-times glee infusion that never sounds forced. Pep band horns are by turns chipper and sour, beats recall drum lines and studio funk and Morse code all at once, deliriously congested guitar tangles redolent of Revolver chafe against orchestrations from forgotten ’60s matinee soundtracks, and returning MC Ninja mixes old school raps with jump-rope rhymes. Even if lyrics like “There’s something here to believe in” and titles like “Plans Are Like a Dream U Organize” don’t resuscitate your inner optimist, there should be something inspiring about Parton’s faith in melody as an infinitely renewable resource. I mean, U don’t have to be miserable all the time, people.  GO

Shopping—The Official Body

This trio’s politics typically boil down to basic antagonism against antagonists (“You don’t like me/ I don’t look like you,” etc.) and their rhythms are even more rudimentary—Billy Easter’s rambling bass is a hardy traveling companion, but drummer Andrew Milk too often falls back on a less-than-rock-steady backbeat when he exhausts his spirit of adventure. So if Marxist analysis and fractured funk are what you demand from your postpunk, you’d be better off with a Jacobin subscription and an old Rough Trade compilation. But you’ll be sorry you missed out on Rachel Aggs’ minimalist but never austere guitar work, which strays from chicken scratch rhythms to lyrical forays to chattering asides to taut twitters to string-bent elasticity to wiry riffs without ever feeling willful or unmoored. GO

Tune-Yards—I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life

An ugly admission of guilt without remorse, the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar” remains an enduring document of barbarism because it denies white listeners the luxury of feeling like decent people—if you dig rock and roll, Mick Jagger implicitly sneers, you’re not only benefitting from centuries of racist rape and plunder, but you get off on that. Much nicer (and less wealthy) than Mick, Merrill Garbus seeks to hold herself accountable for the experimental pop that she crafts from African rhythms she’s as likely to stop appropriating as Jagger is to give up his posh Left Bank flat. And she does so more nimbly than her thoughtful yet over-explanatory interviews suggest she might. Working from a self-aware site of privileged contradiction, her broad-ranging self-incrimination rarely undercuts the joy of her music, whether she’s jack-ack-acking a Billy Joel vocal tic on “Heart Attack,” landing on each syllable of “Everything is better when you’re cheering for the winner” like Mitch Miller’s bouncing ball, or pursuing intimations of Joni Mitchell on “Hammer.” But when this music soars, its not on account of any great ethical insight but, as on previous Tune-Yards albums, because of the way Garbus dramatizes the tension between her wide-ranging anxiety and her creative exuberance. And when it stumbles, it’s not because Garbus is paralyzed by white guilt, but because for the simple, mundane reason that her globally enhanced electrobeats just don’t always have enough yeah, yeah, yeah, woo to ’em. SLOW

They Might Be Giants—I Like Fun

Over the past three decades, pop pastiche purveyors have come and gone, but these untiring miniaturists remain the kings of the molehill. John Flansburgh and John Linnell still skip the setup to go straight to the punchline (“My excellence at parkour/ Is not to be discounted”) and the sour joke of a doomed society writing “By the time you get this note/ We’ll no longer be alive” is that the presumably utopian future age they’re addressing turns out to be … 1937. As always, an undercurrent of angst, expressed in dense aphorisms like “Kindness is killing off my unfinished dreams/ And walking away,” jostles against their tuneful jingles. In our pleasure-glutted era, where “have fun” is one more task to frantically accomplish between gigs, their persistent abundance feels more redundant than ever—they need to write these songs more than any of us needs to hear them. But if nothing else they stand as a daunting challenge to anyone who calls themselves pop. I bet they sure keep Adam Schlesinger on his toes. SLOW

Fall Out Boy—Mania

Less than 20 years ago, “selling out” could still summon unexpected ingenuity from a rock band forced to mold their art to meet market demands. But as the patch of what’s commercially acceptable has dwindled to a pinhead (you may have noticed this in your own life!), the few rockers whose existence pop radio still acknowledges (which is basically these guys and, uh, does Maroon 5 count?) are required to contort themselves into ever more grotesque accommodations. At least Fall Out Boy haven’t moved any further along the path to becoming a 21st-century Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers they embarked on with the pop culture trash-compactor “Uma Thurman.” But the fist-pumping “Centuries,” which ignored Queen’s lesson that you can’t spell “champion” without “camp,” was a sign of worse yet to come. Even if you can tune out lines like “I’m about to go Tonya Harding on the whole world’s knee” and “Are you smelling that shit? Eau de résistance,” their sound has assimilated all the ugly bludgeon of mallrat dubstep with none of its klutzy propulsion, as though to say: What else are we supposed to do? And really, what else are they supposed to do? Go country? Play oldies at state fairs? Get day jobs? Gripe sell-out all you want, but in the end you and I don’t really hate Mania. We hate capitalism. NO


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