In 2003, hardly anyone would have thought that Fall Out Boy would one day be able to look back on 20 years of success, least of all the band members themselves. It has been two decades since the band led by mastermind Pete Wentz and singer Patrick Stump released their debut album Take This To Your Grave, which, alongside contemporaries such as Paramore, Panic! At The Disco (who recently announced their retirement) or My Chemical Romance, made them pioneers of emo-pop-punk. A genre that has since been usurped by emo rappers like Machine Gun Kelly or nothing.nowhere.
Another 10 years have passed since Fall Out Boy came back out of nowhere with Save Rock And Roll after a long hiatus and ushered in a new era of the former emo-rockers, which was to reach its temporary peak with their last album, MANIA. The seventh album by the Chicago band seemed to be too “pop”, too cluttered, too incoherent. Guitarist Joe Trohman, who is currently taking a break for health reasons, stated in his well worth reading memoirs, None Of This Rocks*, that this album quickly slipped out of his hands. The guitar-heavy approaches were dropped and replaced with synths. Trohman withdrew from the creative process and made no secret of not liking the album.
On So Much (For) Stardust, Fall Out Boy’s eighth studio album, the tone is completely different. Guitars are back with a vengeance! From the first single, Love From The Other Side, which is also the album opener, it’s clear where things are headed. Stardust is taking off at full speed and doesn’t slow down until the end, incorporating everything that makes Fall Out Boy unique as a band: clever, ironic and angsty lyrics, catchy guitars, pop influences and, above all, Patrick Stump’s voice.
Those who have been following the band for a long time, like the author, know their development from a bunch of nerdy suburban boys to one of the most influential bands of their genre. So it’s safe to assume that guys who are now in their late 30s or mid-40s and family men were to write a new Sugar, We’re Goin Down.
Fall Out Boy have grown older, more mature and wiser and yet have remained true to themselves, as evidenced by tracks like “Heartbreak Feels So Good” or lines like “part time soulmate, full time problem” (Hold Me Like A Grudge), “We’re here and we’re ready to livestream the apocalypse” (What A Time To Be Alive), “Let’s twist the knife again like we did last summer” (I Am My Own Muse) or “Love is in the air, I just need a window to break out” (Fake Out).
There are occasional breathers in the form of Ethan Hawke’s voice-over on The Pink Seashell (from the film “Reality Bites”) or Pete Wentz’s monologue (Baby Annihilation), which recalls earlier such instants. These two interludes also fit perfectly into the overall picture (even if you will certainly skip them after multiple listens).
You can tell that Fall Out Boy are back on track. So Much (For) Stardust seems to be from one mould. The songs harmonise with each other, there are no fillers and drummer Andy Hurley and guitarist Joe Trohman finally have work to do again. Even more so, you get the feeling that each of the four members has actually contributed their personal note to the album.
The record was produced by Neal Avron, who worked with the band on Infinity On High (2007) and Folie à Deux (2008), two of the band’s most ambitious and excellent albums. Avron, who now mainly produces musicals, did not miss the opportunity to be involved once again. His handwriting is clearly recognisable and contributes significantly to the fact that Stardust seems so coherent and whole in itself. In fact, some of the songs sound almost as if they could have been on one of the earlier albums, e.g. Flu Game, Hold Me Like A Grudge or The Kintsugi Kid (Ten Years). The record ends on a somewhat nostalgic and melancholic note with its title track: “So much for stardust, I thought we had it all.”
Alongside Save Rock and Roll and Folie à Deux, So Much (For) Stardust is certainly one of Fall Out Boy’s best albums. Especially the older fans, who found the post-Hiatus albums altogether too pop, will be very pleased with this album. While some of their contemporaries have disbanded in the meantime or live off greatest-hits tours, Fall Out Boy demonstrate once again that they still have something to say after more than 20 years and have not lost their relevance.