I’d like to use my first post of the new year to draw some attention to a momentous event that passed mostly unnoticed this week: on February 2, Fall Out Boy announced to little fanfare that they had broken up. Let’s not cry too hard, now: the band’s fifteen minutes were decidedly up, and, as I’ll discuss below, some good is likely to come out of this. I come to bury Fall Out Boy, not to praise them; but they deserve to be interred solemnly, not dumped in a ditch.
Now, my attitudes on the subject have changed remarkably in last half decade. When the Chicago quartet hit the big time with 2005’s From Under the Cork Tree I fucking despised Fall Out Boy. But like most fifteen-year-old quasi-punk nerds trying to prove their hipness by talking up Gang Of Four and The Replacements, I had stupid reasons. Sell-outs, I called them; inauthentic, whiney, emo pretty boys who dressed up shallow pop music with a thin veneer of fake punk attitude. That’s all one hundred percent accurate and equally beside the point.
My problem was my frame of reference: for some reason I was comparing Fall Out Boy to Fugazi. But really, they were preserving a very different part of the American tradition: the pop-rock single. Since time immemorial (or rather the 50s), we’ve always had a few acts dedicated to banging out simple, preternaturally hummable songs about romantic angst on electric guitars. Folks like Buddy Holly and Cheap Trick are justly beloved, but their approach became less common over the years, especially in the mainstream. But in the 90s, rock became slow, glum, and self-serious. Blame Pearl Jam. Guitar-pop was pretty strictly the province of Weezer and a few one-hit wonders like, oh, say, The Refreshments.
By the aughts, the only bands playing snappy, snotty, uptempo rock were the so called “emo” or “pop-punk” bands like Blink-182, Jimmy Eat World, and Fall Out Boy. Maybe because they were melodramatic (something you can’t blame on them – these guys were products of the age of livejournal) or because they had bastardized the sound of more “serious” punks, this new wave of pop bands was treated with contempt. But with the benefit of hindsight, it’s important to acknowledge that when you evaluate “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down,” as a pop song, it has some undeniable hooks.
[youtube src= “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhG-vLZrb-g”]
Sure, there was plenty to hate about Fall Out Boy. They produced godawful high-concept videos where tunes were interrupted by stupid bits of dialogue. Pete Wentz was an insufferable tabloid celebrity and he wrote some insufferable self-referential lyrics. Perhaps most importantly, Fall Out Boy were never good enough to earn them their brilliant Simpsons-referencing name. But God do I miss them today. If you turn on a pop station today, you’re going to hear wall-to-wall club ready electro-pop. I like the mainstream a whole a hell of a lot more when there’s some diversity, and I’d kill for some old fashioned boy-meets-girl-loses-girl-moans-about-it rock and roll.
As I mentioned, there’s a big reason to be helpful. Now that Fall Out Boy is gone, lead singer Patrick Stump is hard at work on a solo album. Stump was always the best thing about the band: he wrote the melodies, he did all the arrangements (which got really interestingly funky by the band’s 2008 swansong, Folie a Deux), and he had a cool, soul-influenced delivery. His record oughta be like Fall Out Boy if you didn’t have to pretend you didn’t speak English to enjoy the songs.
[youtube src= “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNm5drtAQXs”]