Review Summary: Who'd have thought? Fall Out Boy's debut record has got actual replay value! And twelve good, catchy pop-punk songs to boot!
It's such a funny thing how hype and label changes alter young band's careers. In 2003, Fall Out Boy were literally fall out boys: nobody knew them and nobody had a clue what these guys were going to churn out over the next couple of years. Four years, a switch to a major label, two albums, a bunch of chart-topping singles, bad press for lyricist Wentz, and collaborations with "great" hip-hop artists later, Fall Out Boy are just that: internationally recognised pop-punkers, to whom Lady Luck has given quite the amount of fortune and money. Of course, fame is a fickle friend, and who knows where Pete and co. will be circa 2011?
At least, then, we can remember and thank Wentz for coming up with one album that will stand the test of time as genuinely an excellent slice of pop-punk. Their debut for indie label Fueled By Ramen, Take This To Your Grave, is where it's really at for this band. No matter how many copies Infinity on High will sell, this has the better songs. Take for example the gorgeous single "Grand Theft Autumn (Where Is Your Boy)", with possibly 2003's catchiest melody line, grand guitar hooks, and memorable vocal twists and turn around every corner.
It's not just the songs that are well-crafted and original. Fall Out Boy, known for some of the best song titles (and also probably the ***tiest), hit home on their first track already, which for some reason bears the name "Tell That Mick He Just Made My List Of Things To Do Today." Despite its overly verbal title, the band injects one memorable guitar line after another, showing their pop punk colleagues the definition of a pumping opener. And "Sending Postcards From A Plane Crash (Wish You Were Here)" seems uneventful at first, but the amazingly powerful chorus line of You can thank your lucky stars / That everything I wish for will never come true
just begs to be sung along a hundred times at gigs.
Fall Out Boy also have realised that playing exclusively slow songs is out of the question on this album (so we don't get awful tracks like "Golden"). Even Homesick at Space Camp, with some nicely finger picked notes and devoid of the "let's exhaust our drummer" tempos, ends up with a really powerful mid-section that ensures you're not snoozing off by the window. On the contrary, when they take a heavy approach and play around with screamed vocals ("Saturday" comes to mind), it doesn't make the song messy or falsely aggressive: the hardcore screams perfectly imbue another rousing chorus with much-needed vim.
And then there's the easier, shorter, more accessible songs as well. Fall Out Boy will probably never come up with a simple, midtempo, just-us-and-our-four-instruments-playing-a-song kind of deal than Dead On Arrival. There's no strings, no horns, no frills: it's fun and enjoyable pop punk at its best. Moreover, don't you just love how hindsight hands you the ironic honesty of a line such as "I know I'm not you're favorite record / The songs you grow to like never stick at first / So I'm writing you a chorus, and here is your verse"
With this record, Fall Out Boy show it's not all about glossy frills, appearances on MTV, or if the amount of fangirls the band has equals the amount of ***ty quotes Pete Wentz can come up with in a year. This album was untainted by all of that, and it shows in the music: it's 12 tracks of pure, fun and enjoyable pop punk songs everyone can enjoy in ten years' time. Heaven knows I still enjoy this, years after its release, and so should you.