Released Oct. 15th on Island Records
Just a few months after completing the decidedly un-punk Save Rock and Roll, Fall Out Boy headed to Ryan Adams’ PAX AM studio in Indianapolis to bang out a bunch of rough, hardcore-influenced tunes with Adams at the boards. Sort of the antithesis to the huge, polished pop of Save Rock and Roll, PAX AM Days was recorded in two days using analog tape, with Adams sometimes capturing rehearsals and first takes as the final versions. The result is an eight-song EP clocking in at just over 13 minutes, with only one track exceeding the 2-minute mark.
This is Fall Out Boy revisiting their youths, in a way, since all four members came up in the Chicago punk/hardcore scene: Bassist Pete Wentz and guitarist Joe Trohman met while playing in metalcore outfit Arma Angelus (in which future Rise Against singer Tim McIlrath played bass), while drummer Andy Hurley—a straightedge vegan—played in bands with names like Racetraitor, Killtheslavemaster, and xFor Death or Gloryx, and during FOB’s hiatus joined Milwaukee straightedge hardcore group FocusedXMinds. Heck, even singer/guitarist Patrick Stump started out drumming in suburban hardcore and power violence bands. This isn’t the first time Fall Out Boy have played hardcore, either: Their cover of Gorilla Biscuits’ “Start Today” on the Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland soundtrack jumps to mind. Taking all that into account, what they’re doing on this EP makes sense.
Still, though, Fall Out Boy is a pop band first and foremost, moreso now than ever before after the excesses of Save Rock and Roll, and Adams is an alt-country dude. Though the band does a pretty good job of condensing their melody and hooks into forceful blasts on PAX AM Days, it feels more like they’re aping the “loud fast rules” style rather than truly being of it. The band plays ably—particularly Hurley, who stands out most impressively on “Love, Sex, Death”—but Stump’s voice just sounds out of place in this style of music. He’s a soulful singer with R&B influences whose voice fits Fall Out Boy’s grandiose vision of pop punk, but his vocal operatics often seem counter to the aggressiveness of the music on this EP.
Of the eight tracks, “Hot to the Touch, Cold on the Inside” is the closest to FOB’s early pop punk sound and has a singalong chorus that may make it a good fit in their live show. “Demigods” succeeds with a sound reminiscent of Hot Snakes (I must credit Bryne Yancey for making that comparison; I knew it reminded me of another band but couldn’t quite place it). On most of the rest, though, it sounds like the band is pretending to play hardcore rather than really feeling it. PAX AM Days is a novelty release, though, not meant to signify the next phase of Fall Out Boy’s career, so it’s easy to forget that and just enjoy it for the fun it offers.