It goes without saying that the punk and hardcore scenes are intended to be inclusive spaces for people of all backgrounds. It's the people's genre, or at least it's supposed to be. Unfortunately, that open door policy can sometimes allow in some unwanted riff raff. Such is the case with Fall Out Boy’s new hardcore-inspired EP, Pax AM Days.
Recorded over a two-day marathon session with Ryan Adams producing, Pax AM Days finds Fall Out Boy — having already reunited in secret and saved rock and roll, they think — seeking to conquer a new foe by channeling their earliest influences into eight quick bursts of analog-recorded, barely-produced hardcore. While the four guys in the band are almost certainly talented musicians, this feels like a trivial exercise. Who exactly is this EP for? Yes, bassist/bestselling author Pete Wentz and guitarist Joe Trohman played in local hardcore bands in Chicago prior to FOB’s formation. Drummer Andy Hurley is a straight-edge hardcore vegan commando who, during the group’s hiatus hit the skins for Enabler and FocusedXMinds. Calling Fall Out Boy poseurs would be way too lazy and easy, and really, not even true. But they’ve been a pop band since the beginning, a pop band whose bloatedness has grown over the years and reached previously unfathomable heights on Save Rock and Roll. Why not just be that?
Musically, the intentional roughness of Pax AM Days is rarely less than cloying; the listener can almost feel the band winking at them as they run roughshod through thirteen minutes of hardcore-inspired, hidden-track-quality music. Vocalist Patrick Stump sounds the most out of place. Stump’s an extremely talented singer, but seconds into “We Were Doomed From The Start (The King Is Dead)” it’s apparent he’s wholly out of his element, his elongated, operatic performance zapping any and all aggression created by the music behind him. Revered bands in this scene have done just fine with “classically” talented vocalists — Glenn Danzig with Misfits and Jello Biafra with Dead Kennedys immediately spring to mind — but Stump doesn’t appear to have the worldview for this. It just doesn’t seem real or invested. His delivery of “Hands in the air/ but the middle finger is for you!” in “Eternal Summer” is unbelievable, in that it’s hard to believe that he believes the words he’s yelling.
One exception might be “Hot to the Touch, Cold on the Inside,” which has a chorus that could’ve been on any of Fall Out Boy’s actual songs. Chances are it’ll be the one song from this EP the band play live. “Demigods” is also not bad, with an almost Hot Snakes-like march that weirdly suits FOB’s talents much better than fiery hardcore.
That lack of reality permeates throughout Pax AM Days, however. While Hurley is often a bright spot — his percussion work on “Love, Sex, Death” is particularly impressive — the majority of this EP comes off as so tone-deaf and try-hard that it’s impossible for the listener to detach from the novelty of the whole thing. But then again, maybe novelty is the whole point.