QUICK SPINS: Phoenix, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fall Out Boy

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 23, 2013 7:20PM

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Three highly anticipated albums, three bands that hit it big in the aughts, and three examples of bands treading water or sinking under expectations. Usually Quick Spins would tackle each individually, but why bother since all three merit many of the same comments. So let's take a look at the new albums from Phoenix, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Fall Out Boy.

Phoenix is the least disappointing of the three. While everyone got to know them on the incredibly successful and solid Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, all "1901" and "Lisztomania," that disc was merely the culmination of nearly a decade's worth of pretty solid work on the LP front. The followup, Bankrupt!, is more of the same only not as cohesive or explosive as its predecessor. What happens when a band that has made a career out of playing pleasantly catchy music follows up a super catchy album with another pleasantly catchy one? Not much. And that's probably Bankrupt!'s biggest strike against it since folks that know Phoenix from a single album are sure to walk away mildly nonplussed.

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs at Lollapalooza 2009, photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy
Fall Out Boy's first album after a couple years' hiatus is Save Rock And Roll, which is ironic since this is anything but rock and roll. Pop? Yup. A little R&B? Sure. Over the top melodramatic histrionics that make you question your own sanity? Why not. One song whose intro totally and shamelessly rips off Adele? Thems the hits, baby!* A guest vocal from Courtney Love? Even more painful than it sounds. A guest vocal from Elton John? Disturbingly unintrusive, which should tell you all you need to know about the ten songs that precede its appearance. That said, if you were a fan of Fall Out Boy already, chances are you'll love the hell out of all of this.

Which brings us to Yeah Yeah Yeahs and their hat in the ring, Mosquito. This trio of New Yorkers has grown steadily more boring throughout the years, but Karen O has some sort of otherworldly draw this reviewer seems immune to, so maybe we're missing something in that regard. We can attest to the fact that the band's musical output has grown more banal, more mid-tempo and less adventurous as the years have gone on. In previous releases they masked this with dance beats and energetic rhythms, but on Mosquito they largely eschew this approach and end up with a stew of songs that barely take the effort to differentiate themselves from each other.

So is this an example of three bad albums, or is this an example of bands unable to live up to expectations? For this reviewer the math is evenly split—split three evenly and you'll see where we're going with that—and the decision ultimately falls upon the needs of the listener? What are you looking for? More or less of the same? Then all three of thee releases will probably satisfy you, at least for a little while. We just find most of the content within these albums to be so many empty, and not even joyfully so, calories.

Phoenix is coming to Chicago for Lollapalooza. Fall Out Boy is playing a sold-out show at The Riv on May 16. Yeah Yeah Yeahs have no local date planned yet.

*To be fair, the guest turn by Foxes on this track, "Just One Yesterday" is probably the highlight of the album, intro be damned.