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Fall Out Boy

Fall Out Boy is its own best friend and its own worst enemy. But subpar live shows, photos of bassist Pete Wentz's penis, and Internet fights with ex-friends (see can't seem to stop the pop-punk juggernaut. The Chicago quartet addresses criticism head-on in this release, slyly incorporating a response to haters in lyrics and videos. Detractors, meanwhile, should only become even more infuriated when it dawns on them that Fall Out Boy continues to write better songs than the majority of its peers. That's eminently clear on Infinity on High, the band's second major-label album and first since 2005's From Under the Cork Tree made them heroes to the hoodie set. Despite even thicker coats of studio gloss painted over songs (a move that at times gives several tunes — specifically the sub-screamo chug "The Carpal Tunnel of Love" — a generic edge), High contains catchier hooks, bigger choruses, and more vocal histrionics than a MySpace flame war. It's also more diverse (the pensive piano ballad "Golden," a brief spoken-word intro by Jay-Z) and shockingly danceable, with handclaps, disco-flecked backbeats, and a generally dynamic discotheque pulse snaking throughout. But High's best track is hands-down "Thnks Fr Th Mmrs," a predictably zing-laden song ("Thanks for the memories/Even if they weren't that great") that is just monstrous: Spanish guitars, scissor-kicking harmonies, cinematic strings, and minor chords crash and clatter together messily to form an arena-ready masterpiece.

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