By Jason Houston-McMillan
Soul Punk, the first full-length solo album from ex-Fall Out Boy frontman Patrick Stump manages to thrill from start to finish. Riding on the back of the EP Truant Wave, the album builds on and focuses Stump’s creative energy. The vocals on the opening track, aptly titled Explode, pack a powerful punch which sets the intensely energetic tone for the album.
After the influential pop-punk/emo-rock group went on indefinite hiatus in 2009, each member went their separate musical ways, but it was Stump who had the grandest, most ambitious vision for his career. This however, is not a recent decision – “I’ve been wanting to do this every year for the past ten years,” he says. His lack of an outlet for his “R&B and pop and [the] art rock stuff and some jazz stuff and some soul” seems to be apparent on Fall Out Boy’s latest album, Folie à Deux.
With Soul Punk, Stump is able to enjoy a degree of musical freedom which had, until now, been denied him, for the most part. Fully embracing his newfound independence, Stump takes the notion of a solo album to a new level. As it says in the CD booklet – “All instruments performed, every word sung, every string plucked and every key struck by Patrick Vaughn Stump.” He also wrote all the lyrics and produced the entire album himself – something he has had previous experience in (see Cobra Starship’s ¡Viva la Cobra! among others).
On the album itself, Stump’s powerful vocals shine through, their potency present in every track. The sheer intensity of the vox is enough to keep listener’s listening and provides a constant throughout the album, even in the face of the varying musical styles. Stump vaguely seems to be showing off in some sections, though this is definitely not unwelcome after his self-regulation in Fall Out Boy. On tracks like Everybody Wants Somebody and The “I” in Lie he moves from fluttering falsetto to powerful vocal kicks as easy as breathing, something he has no trouble doing live.
While the bright synth tracks and lively bass-lines of Soul Punk would be out of place on a Fall Out Boy record, the lyrics certainly would not be. On The “I” in Lie Stump sings “And baby bang bang, kiss kiss/ You and I got to put an end to this” displaying some lyrical habits Stump picked up from his time in the band. Another example of the post-emo lyrics reminiscent of FoB would be from Everybody Wants Somebody, yet again, where he sings “Everybody wants somebody/ Who doesn’t want them”, seemingly catering to the same teenage audience that Stump wrote Grand Theft Autumn for, pre-2004.
The way Stump moves through the lyrics themselves (especially on the verses of Explode and Dance Miserable) bleeds Michael Jackson. Indeed, the King of Pop’s influence is evident throughout the whole album, and this is something Stump recognises, saying “I’m definitely inspired by Michael Jackson, but I don’t have any misapprehension that that’s who I am”. It’s no surprise to anyone who has been following Stump around the internet in the past few months, considering his a cappella tribute to Jackson.
The apparent centre of the album is the track Run Dry (X Heart X Fingers), an 8 minute long epic which brings together all the elements which make Soul Punk a great album – warm, liquid synths and a fresh, pop-funk baseline underpinning compelling vocals.
Spotlight (New Regrets) also stands out as a song which seems to be written to be a hit, the lyrics working flawlessly with the smooth vocals (“Every word’s a new regret if you say it right, right/ Every wound can be forgotten in the right light”). This song, along with Coast (It’s Gonna Get Better) shows a positive side of Stump which isn?t as evident in Dance Miserable, for example.
Soul Punk marks a lifetime achievement for Patrick, even with his multiplatinum selling albums in Fall Out Boy, and it is definitely something he can be proud of. The effort put into making this album as perfect as he felt it could be, is tangible and evident in every single track. As he sings in Coast: “I’m singing/ I keep making mistakes/ But it takes some time to get anything right” – with Soul Punk, Stump has taken his time, and he got it very, very right.