By Lauren Dixon-Paver
PAX AM Days is Fall Out Boy’s sudden realisation that they are, in fact, a punk band, bringing back all the teenage angst that fans thought they’d forgotten. After the conglomeration of synthetic tunes, collaborations and vaguely disco-esque beats that was Save Rock and Roll, their album released earlier this year, Fall Out Boy knocked the “pop” out of their “pop-punk” style and opted for a hardcore-inspired sound for their latest offering, released 15 October.
For many people of my generation, Fall Out Boy’s music helped to shape their teenage years. Many die-hard fans have been disappointed with the band’s more recent releases, finding their sound too “pop” in some of their later albums.
Returning to their punk roots a decade after their debut album, Take This To Your Grave, PAX AM Days is a 13-minute, semi-coherent collection of the band’s recordings at PAX AM Studios in July 2013, delivering a raw, unpolished and decidedly angsty sound that poses a complete opposite to the radio-ready Save Rock and Roll that marked the band’s April return to the industry after their three year hiatus.
Produced by Ryan Adams after a 2-day marathon recording session with the band, the entire EP has a rough, grimy sound to it that listeners are bound to either love or hate. The recordings are intertwined with interference and distortion, such as on the track Demigods, that give the collection a feel of gritty, garage-band glory that seemed forgotten by Fall Out Boy in recent years.
All of the tracks on the album seem somehow unfinished, with only a single track, Caffeine Cold, breaking the 2 minute mark, and more than a single repetition of a chorus unlikely in any song. Lead singer Patrick Stump’s smooth, soulful voice is wasted on the album, trampled by the harsh backing of the other members’ overpoweringly aggressive instrumentals. Tracks such as Eternal Summer see Stump’s voice straining to keep up with force and anger of the song, and definitely not suited to the fury of lyrics that claim that he’ll “save the middle finger for you”.
Fans will be disappointed at the lyrical content of the songs, either lacking the band’s usual much-loved poetics, or too distorted by the rough sound of the recording to be heard by the human ear. Despite this downfall, the EP inspires a sound reminiscent of the hardcore punk rock music of nineties and noughties that a few die-hard fans are sure to love. Listeners that are only just discovering the band, however, will be hesitant, especially after the band’s softer collaborations with artists such as musical giant Elton John earlier this year.
The album is undoubtedly worth listening to for any fan, though will definitely not please everyone. Fans who have stuck around since Take This To Your Grave will see the album as a hope that the band are returning to their punk ways after the pop direction they’ve taken in recent years, though it’s clear the band have yet to once more find the balance between punk and pop as their debut album did.
The EP is available digitally and on 7” vinyl, as well as on a limited edition re-release of Save Rock and Roll, to which it will seem a harsh juxtaposition.
Incoherence aside, PAX AM Days stands a far better chance at saving rock and roll than Fall Out Boy’s April offering that claimed it would, and will have nineties kids headbanging happily at the return of something semi-punk.