Infinity on High Island
Music •••• Sound ••••
When your new pop-punk/emo album kicks off with an intro from Jay-Z, you know you've made it. Yes, it's true: Fall Out Boy blew Hova away so thoroughly at a particularly heated New York City gig that he became one of their biggest fans. It's not a case of pop-punk embracing hip-hop and morphing into something that I guess would be called hop-punk. It's about being so on the money in your own genre that the Big Cheese of another genre can dig it.

From Under the Cork Tree (2005), the band's second full-length album, was right on the money, selling some 2 million copies. And just as Jay-Z has never really done in his own career, Fall Out Boy didn't choke or overdo it or screw things up in another way while making the follow-up, Infinity on High. Instead, the band harnessed the confidence it gained from Tree's success and sprouted an even better record - one that actually makes pop-punk seem more realized than what the gazillions of chirpy, whiny Warped Tour warriors have been dishing out lately.

In the opening "Thriller," it's hard not to appreciate the high-spirited emotion of Patrick Stump's vocals as they latch onto guitarist Joe Trohman's chunky riffs and bassist/lyricist/leader Pete Wentz's direction-pointing bass lines. It's a direction that's both catchy and interesting but not too far from what we've come to expect from this band. Then there's some funk-punk on "The Take Over, the Breaks Over," one of several songs whose long title I'll forgive because it's a damn good tune. Another, "This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race," could spawn an FM radio comeback as Stump sings with R&B bravado about our latest pop-culture obsessions while his cronies blast into the stratosphere with irresistibly zippy energy.

The album's groovy, soulful aspects are further bolstered on "I'm Like a Lawyer with the Way I'm Always Trying to Get You Off (Me & You)," where they seem to cohabitate with pop-punk in a most natural, it-makes-sense way. It's as if someone from above were declaring, "Yes, these styles can be combined, and it doesn't have to sound clunky or forced." That someone could be producer Babyface, who has done a remarkable job with the song. It could also be one of their biggest fans.

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