Well, I don’t know what I was expecting.
I never had a problem with Fall Out Boy. I always dismissed them as a harmless gateway band, much like Blink-182 before them and the Offspring before them. I never bought their records or went to their shows, but if they came on the radio I didn't change the station. The only thing about them that ever really stuck with me was that vocalist Patrick Stump actually had a really good voice. After seeing videos of him performing Bobby Womack covers with the Roots, and learning that his solo album was to be titled Soul Punk, my interest was definitely piqued. With the arrival of his debut EP, Truant Wave, comes the question: Freed from the confines of mainstream pop-punk and Pete Wentz, could he deliver something worth paying money to listen to?
The Short Answer: No, not at all.
To put it bluntly, Truant Wave, a teaser for his forthcoming full-length, is one giant swing and a miss. Far from the Motown-esque soul record I was hoping for, this is modern pop music at its worst. It’s not even good for what it is. Disposable bubblegum music of this nature should at the very least be catchy, and it isn't even. When he manages to write a decent hook, such as in the chorus to “Spotlight”, it is complemented with a drumbeat that completely clashes with it, preventing the listener from even humming along. It feels like you’re listening to two different songs at once, and neither of them are very interesting.
Part of the problem may be Stump’s tendency to use too many ideas at once. One of the disc’s only redeeming moments comes in the form of the power-pop-esque first verse of “Love, Selfish Love”; however, the second verse sounds absolutely nothing like it. If this were a Meshuggah album, I’d be fine with unconventional song structure, but for a simple pop song, it almost seems like self-sabotage. Guest spots from people I've never heard of and never care to hear from again (Alph-A-Bit, Om’Mas Keith, D.A. & Driis) only make more of a mess of the proceedings. Synth sounds not unlike something on the Scarface soundtrack abound on Truant Wave. I have a feeling he was a going for an ironic retro vibe, but they just sound cheesy.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that the lyrics on Truant Wave are devoid of anything close to resembling substance. Lines about “pretty things fresh out of their teens” and how “you’d look better famous” are the norm here. The song “As Long as I Know I’m Getting Paid” is quite telling. When he attempts to switch things up a bit lyrically in the aforementioned “Spotlight” ("They might try to tell you how can live your life / But don’t forget it’s your right / To do whatever you like / You can be your own spotlight”) just come off hokey, like a bad fortune cookie or graduation card.
Stump recently recorded an a cappella tribute to Michael Jackson, and Fall Out Boy recorded a cover of Jackson’s "Beat It" a few years back, and his influence is apparent in the vocals. Stump grunts and "whoo"s just like his idol, but MJ had the songs to back these vocal quirks up. Stump doesn't.
I wasn't exactly expecting a game-changer from the frontman of Fall Out Boy, but his former bandmates managed to create an enjoyable if forgettable rock record with the Damned Things. I’ll give the man credit where it’s due: He still has a great voice, he recorded all the instruments on this release, and produced it by himself. He’s a talented guy, but talent doesn't always translate into good music. Truant Wave is a perfect example of that, and makes FOB look like the Clash. This is one to avoid.