A brief look back at a band that left its mark on a generation
Many would tell you that Fall Out Boy was finished long before the release of their full-length finale, Folie A Deux, but the record certainly had something of a goodbye feel to it. There is no way of discerning whether or not it was intended to be a farewell album, but the cumulative resume-to-date of singles tidily collaged together in the background of “What A Catch, Donnie” certainly seems to imply that they knew the end was coming. And for someone who grew up with the awkward looking, off-key underdogs, that probably had more of an impact than it did on most. It’s true that the band had begun to overstay their (very brief) welcome, saturating radio stations to the point of nausea while their albums were infiltrated by guest musicians like Jay-Z – whose presence on “Thriller” was arbitrary and purely promotional. But even in the “selling out” of their sound, FOB never lost their down-to-earth touch; in fact, they could often be heard mocking their own commercialization. Popular single “This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race” is a prime illustration, with lyrics comparing the music scene to an arms race and proclaiming, “as long as the room keeps singin’ / that’s just the business I’m in.” It was moments like this that, even in the midst of an enormous popularity explosion, offered a glimpse into the heart of a band that maybe didn’t change so much after all.
This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race
Call me naive, but I think that Fall Out Boy was completely self-aware. They knew exactly what their role was, from their warm underground reception to their full-blown mainstream roller coaster ride. And as a product of that cognizance, they were able to retain a lot of fans that otherwise would have felt betrayed when they took the path of fame and fortune. Perhaps it is the sensation of a band selling their identity in favor of trendy bells and whistles that leaves a bad taste in the mouths of diehards, but for whatever reason Fall Out Boy seemed to dodge that trap. I think it was their blatant honesty that saved them…there was this whole “we’re selling out and we know it, but we’ve still got something for the guys who held us down in the rougher times” feel to their music that made it seem less fake and more satirical. When succumbing to the sweet, intoxicating lips of fame, you might as well poke fun at your lack of will power, right?
Fall Out Boy enjoyed their greatest success during the two album run that contained From Under The Cork Tree and Infinity On High. There was nothing overtly unique about the music they made, but their impeccable style and confident delivery is what made them frontrunners in the mid-2000’s pop-punk movement. A song as fun as “Dance, Dance”, as catchy as “Thnks Fr Th Mmrs”, or as melodic as “Me & You” is still to this day hard to come by, and even though it’s a service that a lot of us scoff at, it is one that the non-rap/non-R&B mainstream scene needs desperately.
So with Patrick Stump leaning towards quitting music altogether, there is definitely an air of sadness now when I listen to a song like “Grand Theft Autumn” or “I’ve Got a Dark Alley and a Bad Idea That Says You Should Shut Your Mouth.” They aren’t the Beatles of our time, but they certainly left a void that I have yet to see another band step up and fill. If neither Fall Out Boy nor Patrick Stump make music in the future, I think that’s a hole that will remain open for a long, long time.