It seems random that Jay-Z would take a break from running Island Records' parent company, Def Jam, to appear on Fall Out Boy's second album for the label. But consider this: Island's roster boasts several dozen rock acts, none of which has ever opened an album with the label's CEO announcing, "It's here!" after dissing all who'd try to keep the band down. To paraphrase a well-worn line, this is kind of a big deal.
Just as "Thriller" finds Jay-Z quashing those who criticized his golden goose, the rest of Infinity On High finds Fall Out Boy challenging the Warped Tour generation that first put it on his radar. Employing another surprise presence, Babyface, to produce alongside Neal Avron (who helmed Fall Out Boy's multi-platinum breakthrough, 2005's From Under The Cork Tree), the quartet defies expectations at nearly every turn. Want a straight pop-punk anthem? They'll throw in a church choir at the bridge. Expecting the first single to rock? How about an R&B club track instead? Thought that old beef with The Killers had ended? Just wait until the nervous dance-punk of "The Take Over, The Break's Over" conquers radio.
Ironically, such songs—to say nothing of diminutive singer-guitarist Patrick Stump reinventing himself as a larger-than-life soul crooner—make Infinity so striking that, when an actual "Fall Out Boy single" cues up (e.g., the emo-by-numbers "The Carpal Tunnel Of Love"), it undermines the album's pop potential. Which may seem odd—with hip-hop moguls, a platinum past, and the ubiquitous gossip-column presence of bassist Pete Wentz in its corner, FOB could've cut an album's worth of club hits and still found an audience. Its refusal to do so shows it still knows the difference between selling records and making fans.