"If this is it, I want to go out with a bang," Patrick Stump sings on "Explode," the opening track on "Soul Punk." It's a sentiment that hangs over the singer's debut full-length, which Stump recorded following eight years as the frontman of Fall Out Boy. Essentially, "Soul Punk" is the exhalation of a funk/soul diehard who has been part of a pop-punk group for nearly a decade: while Stump's high-register, highly passionate singing distinguished FOB from their peers on the Warped Tour, it was clear early on in the group's career that Stump's vocal choices were more comparable to those of Michael Jackson than Billie Joe Armstrong. "Soul Punk," then, is his labor of love, a gooey, high-production ode to a genre that Stump hasn't had the opportunity to explore head-on, and if this is this white boy's only shot to play that funky music before Fall Out Boy's inevitable reunion, then he's gonna do it as loud as he can, dammit.
"Soul Punk" is not exactly "Fall Out Boy With Synthesizers," since Pete Wentz's tongue-in-cheek songwriting style is nowhere to be found. Instead of snark and heartbreak conveyed through intricately constructed metaphors, Stump often operates with a dazzling earnestness, as on the Chicago salute "This City," the hopeful anthem "Coast (It's Gonna Get Better)" and even the guilt-racked "The 'I' In Lie," in which he screams without shame, "I'm a cheat! Cheat! Cheat!" Some of "Soul Punk" tries too hard to innovate and falls flat, but for the most part, the album is a blast, because Stump is a wildly talented singer and he finally sounds comfortable working in the style that he adores. Call it a guilty pleasure if you want to justify the repeated listens, but there's nothing embarrassing about Stump's blue-eyed grooves.