For those not in the know, "Fresh Only Bakery" was Fall Out Boy's sneaky marketing trick they used on the web to promote their [possibly] final disc "Folie a Deux" - so with the band on hiatus, 2 years later comes the solo debut from lead singer Patrick Stump. The usual questions apply - can he hold his own without his band's input to shape the tunes? Is it any good, period? Yes and no.
Patrick has let his muses run wild on this disc. Sometimes he seems like he's trying too hard to ape a Michael Jackson-ish snarl (on the opener "Explode" or on the schmaltz-heavy but pleasant-still "The 'I' In Lie"). From start to finish he covers a wide variety of styles - in fact it seems he tries too hard to push the chime-heavy guitar power-pop his band was once known for to the background. Some of it is understandable though - a truly "solo" project makes doing full-band arranged tracks harder than it ordinarily would be.
The opening single from this disc "This City" has a fine hook with which to snare people in. It brings a hefty dose of the optimist/pessimist blend he has mined so well in Fallout Boy and dispenses it all in a toe-tapping pop tune that truly does make you want to hear more. Then when one flips the order - starting from the opening track preceding it - "Explode" - it has its moments, but is far too spastic, over-the-top, and goes far too deeply into the "song that sounds just like its title - literally" territory.
What this CD has done is let his quirky sense of humor out more, and this makes for some good chucklers, such as late in the excess-skewering "Greed" he quips "All my Gordon Gekkos and my / Bernie Madoffs, pop your white collars up!" - showing that he can have a good laugh even as he is dishing up his own brand of scathing commentary. "Dance Miserable" has less amusing touches, but still manages to make the aforementioned 50/50 blend of downcast and upbeat feelings mesh well and turns out a snappy pop beat to boot.
Amidst all this back and forth is what could have been the pinnacle of this disc, the drunk-skewering "Run Dry (cross my heart/cross my fingers)" - GREAT track, fun, self-deprecating - but it falls apart when it stops being a simple 4 minute song goofing on how stupid getting falling-down drunk is to a semi-focused 8 minute epic - the last 4 minutes of which just don't really seem to go anywhere. A song that could have done with some judicious editing - so still worth the listen, but worth a press of the fast forward button halfway through - shame, considering how well it begins.
This over-long track is the core of everything that is wrong with this disc - Patrick doesn't know when to stop sometimes. Often the solo works of lead singers of previously successful bands fall victim to this sort of indulgence. Worst of all is the fact that when he DOES hit the right notes, he sounds fantastic - but when his quirky left-turns monster-truck over the good-taste fence, the songs fall apart very quickly.
Overall, this is the sound of a man who could craft a truly brilliant disc end to end if he keeps going - this is the trial run - the learning to fly without the band to back him up. It's a mixed bag, but a mixed bag with enough worthy elements to keep one hoping for more.