The return of Fall Out Boy

Photo Credit: Alternative Press

Photo Credit: Alternative Press

BY JULIAN B.

On Monday, Fall Out Boy announced a reunion after a four-year hiatus with the launch of a new single, a new album — Save Rock and Roll — and a tour. Poor Scholars’ Julian B. reflects on what this means for fans of the band. 

FALL OUT BOY REUNITED

Fuck you, Taylor Swift. Fall Out Boy is getting back together, and there’s nothing you or your shitty country-meets-dubstep revolution can do about it1. Nearly four years since the release of their last single, the most relevant melodic pop-punk group of the last decade2 is going on tour in support of its new album Save Rock and Roll due out in stores on May 6th.

I’ve never felt this excited about a band’s reunion. A lot of this has to do with the fact that I’m 24 years old, and many of the bands that have formed since the dawn of my musically relevant lifetime3 haven’t been around long enough to merit a truly nasty break-up or the epic reunion that follows it. So in many ways, if you’re like me and graduated from high school between 2003 and 2007, this reunion likely represents the first morsel of genuine nostalgia that our generation may rightfully sink its teeth into. Granted, all of this assumes that you actually like Fall Out Boy; a potentially dangerous assumption given that FoB – much like Creed and Nickelback – is a band that people absolutely love to hate. If you do in fact hate Fall Out Boy, I will say that I understand where you’re coming from. I will also ask that you please be on your way and not spoil my fun, because the remainder of this article is a long overdue love letter to the most important band of my teenage years.

Dead On Arrival

I first heard Fall Out Boy in Chicago when Q101 aired “Dead On Arrival” in 2003, the summer before my junior year of high school. I was fourteen and weighed all of about 120 pounds soaking wet. Too young to drive a car and too young-looking to get laid4, “Dead On Arrival” and the rest of Take This To Your Grave provided a much-needed outlet for my pipsqueak rage. Though a lot of other bands like Yellowcard, The Starting Line, and My Chemical Romance were singing about the same shit, there were plenty of reasons that separated Fall Out Boy from the rest of the pop-punk and emo crowd.

First off, the band had an exciting dynamic unlike anything else that was going on at the time. Pete Wentz, though clearly the best looking guy in the band, was NEVER the undisputed front-man. Pete also had to share the spotlight with the aptly named Patrick Stump: a sort of chubby, prematurely balding, and clearly insecure dude whose massive vocal range simply could not be ignored. For once, a band that spent most of its time bitching about failed attempts at romance had a believable protagonist in Stump. However, there’s no getting around the fact that Patrick’s voice was merely the medium for Pete’s relentless lyricism. His lyrics neither forgave nor forgot a single detail of his rocky past with his former hair-dresser girlfriend. However, in a sharp departure from the music that groups like Dashboard Confessional were making at the time, Pete transformed screaming about your ex-girlfriend from mopey catharsis into a frenzied and high energy affair.

The other obvious reason to love Fall Out Boy was that they were a homegrown product of the Chicago music scene, a city whose latest bright star – Lucky Boys Confusion – was sadly just beginning to fall5. Buoyed by the force of Patrick’s vocals and the vitriol of Pete’s pen, Fall Out Boy had the potential to pick up right where Lucky Boys had left off.

Sugar, We’re Going Down

By the time From Under the Cork Tree came out, Fall Out Boy had established firm footing on MTV and their music was being played with some regularity on syndicated radio. However, it wasn’t until the debut of the video for “Sugar, We’re Going Down” that the band had cemented its place in the so-called mainstream. It was at this point that I remember feeling the first pangs of betrayal and hipster snobbery when I would hear kids humming “Sugar” in the hallways of my high school. But even then I couldn’t fault the band for selling out. They were still making the music that I loved, and they were making it better than they ever had before.

This Ain’t A Scene, It’s A Bunch Of Grown Men In A Mosh Pit

I started going to Fall Out Boy shows the summer before my senior year of high school. I’ve probably seen them perform live about 12 times, mostly in Chicago and Milwaukee. I attended all of these shows with some variation of the same group of 10 guys – all good friends from high school. After the first couple of shows, a peculiar dynamic began developing among the group and each of us started settling in to unofficial concert-going “specializations”. The bigger guys started coming into their own as enforcers, giving the smaller guys in the group the confidence to mosh by threatening to kick the shit out of anyone who threw a dirty elbow. Some of us became hype men, dudes who got so hopped up on booze and Big Gulps that you couldn’t help but feed off of their energy and excitement. Others among us were natural heart-throbs, who would usually be the first to break the ice with any girls we wanted to meet during the show. All of us were fans who knew every word.

Another thing that I remember about the live shows: They were the first and best place to see the new bands lucky enough to have been caught in Fall Out Boy’s upward jet-stream. The Academy Is…, Cobra Starship, Gym Class Heroes, The Format and Panic! At the Disco have all spent part of their early years as members of Fall Out Boy’s opening entourage.

Growing Up

I don’t remember exactly when or how things started to turn sour for the band, but I vaguely remember some of the details. Pete sort of became an asshole and started hanging out with Ja Rule6. Patrick dumped a ton of money into an ill-advised solo production that I wanted desperately to like but just couldn’t. Andy continued to force his vegan ideologies on the rest of the group7, and Joe continued to marinate his lungs in unfathomable amounts of marijuana8. All kidding aside, the point is that I simply can’t remember when I stopped listening to this band on a daily basis. Maybe it was because I grew up. Maybe it was because Pete and the rest of his Fall Out Boys had run out of creative energy. Whatever it was, once the feeling left, I was never quite able to get it back.

The (After) Life Of The Party

I sincerely hope that the band is being ironic with its new album title. Fall Out Boy has a snowball’s chance in hell of saving rock and roll. But that doesn’t matter in the slightest, and I think that the band knows this. Fall Out Boy will not go down in history as a band that left an enduring or timeless mark on the history of rock and roll. They are not the Rolling Stones — they have never pretended to be — and people who measure them against that kind of standard have completely missed the point of their music. Those people are also being dicks. Fall Out Boy’s music, just like adolescent youth, hits hard and then fades away before you even have time to realize it. In fact, it’s pretty clear from Pete’s lyrics that the band realized this at the absolute height of their rise to fame; what the hell did you think “Sugar, We’re Going Down” was really about anyway? No, Fall Out Boy will not likely withstand the test of time. My children probably won’t ever listen to them, and truthfully, I’d prefer that they didn’t. Fall Out Boy provided the soundtrack to my youth, and to my coming-of-age story. In that respect, their music will always mean more to me than the work of more “important” bands ever could.

So much of today’s music scene exists entirely on the Internet. Most songs can be downloaded for free and live performances can be streamed instantaneously on YouTube. If rock and roll is going to be saved we need to close our laptops, get off our asses, and start going to more shows. I have five tickets to see Fall Out Boy at Chicago’s Riviera Theatre. Joining me will be the same group of old friends –now doctors, lawyers, accountants and teachers. On May 16th, for one night only, we will be enforcers, heart-throbs, and hype men. We will be bringing our A-game, and I hope that Pete, Patrick, Andy, and Joe all do the same.

There’s a light on in Chicago, and I know I should be home.

  1. Unless Ms. Swift agrees to anal sex with Pete. America would be really pissed if this happened.
  2. A ridiculous categorization I know. Roll with it. Fall Out Boy deserves a superlative.
  3. Age 13 and up.
  4. On a brighter note, I touched an actual naked boob for the first time that year. “Grand Theft Autumn” was the track that set the mood.
  5. An unsubstantiated rumor has Stubhy from Lucky Boys saying that the band would have “made it” if only he had greater vocal range.
  6. Who is still not allowed to rap in public or else 50 Cent will actually shoot him.
  7. This is not at all true.
  8. This is probably true.
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