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Album reviews: Fall Out Boy, Jeff Rosenstock, Calexico [The Philadelphia Inquirer :: BC-MUS-ALBUMS:PH]

Fall Out Boy

"MANIA"

(Island (ASTERISK)(ASTERISK)(ASTERISK))

As one of emo-punk's earliest adopters, Fall Out Boy have come a long way since its 2001 origins. Sure, clever lyricist Pete Wentz and rough soulful vocalist Patrick Stump can yammer on about "childhood heroes having fallen off or died," and, maybe a few driving gloved fists get thrown. For the most part, however, "MANIA" is so busy, poppy, glossy and over-zealously ebullient that no one working within its confines could've been mopey. And that's not necessarily a bad thing when you consider FOB's new sugar-rushing EDM-inspired sort-of pop acts best with the quartet's usual brand of complex melody/hook writing.

Vigorous to a fault, "MANIA" moves from the galvanic mega-metal of "The Last of the Real Ones," the fussy thundering electro-clash of "Young and Menace," the waltzing wonk of "Heaven's Gate," to the torrid tropical house of "Hold Me Tight or Don't" awkwardly but with such bristle and floss, it works as a unified whole. The one tune that doesn't fit is "Champions." Cowritten by FOB and bluer-than-blue composer Sia Furler, the song chugs weirdly in comparison to the rest of "MANIA" - a raspy anthem with a sporty name and no cause or stadium to play in. And it'll be a smash. - A.D. Amorosi

Jeff Rosenstock

"Post-"

(Polyvinyl (ASTERISK)(ASTERISK)(ASTERISK) 1/2)

Jeff Rosenstock's fourth solo album is not the soundtrack to a Steven Spielberg movie about the Pentagon Papers and the importance of a free press, but it is political in content. (Isn't everything these days?) Shortly before the Presidential election in 2016, the Long Island punk-rocker who previously played with The Arrogant Sons of Bitches and Bomb the Music Industry! put out "Worry.," an anxiety-ridden song cycle about the state of the nation that won widespread acclaim and an audience beyond DIY punk circles.

"Post-" is the follow-up, a combative statement of anger, frustration, powerlessness, and ultimate optimism, created over the course of the first year of Trump's presidency. Rosenstock surprise-released the album on New Year's Day, the morning after Rosenstock played the Boot & Saddle in South Philadelphia. The album kicks off with the 7-minute-plus not-flag-waving "USA," with Rosenstock sounding feisty as he declares himself to be "dumbfounded, downtrodden and dejected." And it closes out with the equally ambitious resistance anthem "Let Them Win." In between, "Post-"'s politics are, to Rosenstock's credit, much more personal than political, as his melodies evoke the Beach Boys and Weezer and he shares tender moments in open-hearted tunes such as "9/10" and "TV Stars." - Dan DeLuca

Calexico

"The Thread That Keeps Us"

(Anti, (ASTERISK)(ASTERISK)(ASTERISK))

Tuscon's Calexico have long used the wide-open landscape of Mexican American border country as inspiration, both lyrical and musical. "The Thread That Keeps Us," their ninth studio album, has traces of their usual mariachi horns and cinematic reveries, but they are tempered by dissonance. Apocalyptic opener "End of the World With You" strikes the keynote with lines about "love in the age of extremes" and an increasingly abrasive guitar line that suggests our politically discordant world.

Unlike 2015's bright "Edge of the Sun," which featured guests such as Neko Case and Iron & Wine's Sam Beam, leaders Joey Burns and John Convertino stick mainly with their core touring band, and the tone is often ominous and insidious. "Show me a sign when the world falls apart," Burns sings in "Under the Wheels," an insistent track punctuated with trumpets. The Thread That Keeps Us is still expansive enough to encompass restrained funk in "Another Space," rough-edged rock-and-roll in "Thrown to the Wild," and gentle acoustic balladry in "Music Box," which closes the album on a note of resigned optimism in the power of love and music: "Listen to the song and where it takes your soul." - Steve Klinge

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