Fall Out Boy – ‘So Much (For) Stardust’

By Dave Stewart

There are few bands that have such a huge grasp on an entire generational movement quite like Fall Out Boy does. If you were ever an emo kid, either way back in the 00’s or in the last decade, the likelihood of this band having been an uncontrollable obsession for you is probably quite high. You might’ve spent countless hours writing their poetic, iconic lyrics in the backs of journals. You may well have ripped articles and posters out of Kerrang! Magazine and plastered your walls with them. ‘Sugar, We’re Going Down’ and ‘Dance, Dance’ are undeniable anthems that likely defined your entire existence. You probably also fancied Pete Wentz at some point. All this was once true – maybe it still is – but now it’s time to obsess all over again.

Their brand new album, ‘So Much (For) Stardust’, is their first in five long years. A long ol’ gap. One of the longest of their career, in fact, but their return comes at the perfect time. It’s also the first album back on Fueled By Ramen since their debut, and they’ve rejoined forces with producer Neal Avron who worked on some of their most important records, namely ‘From Under The Cork Tree’, ‘Infinity On High’ and ‘Folie A Deux’. Is this album another one of them?

Opening number and first single ‘Love From The Other Side’ kicks things off in the best possible way. Delicate pianos and heartwarming strings ease into being, setting a calm and grand tone, and then an eruption of guitar and drum stabs pierce through to join forces with them and kick off this pop-punk party. The verses are laid-back but moody, the bridge is uplifting and the chorus is so infectious – it’s got all the punch of their early days, but with the elegance and flair of their later years. ‘Heartbreak Feels So Good’ plays a similar role, with electronic textures that trick you into thinking that’s the vibe for the whole track, quickly becoming clear that it isn’t; it’s actually a soaring rock riot.

The rock vibes are huge throughout; guitars have returned to the forefront of the band’s sound, and they’ve never sounded better. ‘Flu Game’ possesses the kind of weighty chorus that burrows its way into your brain immediately, using incredibly dramatic chord progressions, driving claps and call-and-response vocals that suggest this could effortlessly sit in a musical. ‘Fake Out’ is a reserved-yet-rowdy pop-punk rager, propelled by an understated lick that provides a solid foundation for the huge chorus to jump off of. Even the synths that kickstart ‘The Kintsugi Kid (Ten Years)’ slowly bleed into palm muted chugs and then into a nostalgia-ridden chorus, summoning memories of past records as Patrick Stump’s velvety wails transport you to another plane. The guitars becoming such a big part of the sound again is great, but it’s not all about the references to their past.

Fall Out Boy are a band that used to be able to sit within a niche. Some called them emo, some called them pop punk, they became an arena rock act, but what are they now? Ultimately, they’re just an incredible band, and their sound now traverses so many different genres while retaining that unmistakable FOB tone. ‘Hold Me Like A Grudge’ is a slick and groove-filled funk smash, ‘I Am My Own Muse’ is a towering slice of orchestral theatre, ‘What A Time To Be Alive’ has that joy-spreading 80’s disco vibe, ‘So Good Right Now’ has incredibly soulful, almost gospel vibes, and that closing title track is a drama-fuelled masterclass. They still have all the power and energy that they showed us all those years ago, but they’re now equipped to use it in so many different ways. Their bow is one of the most well-strung in their genre, and it’s made an absolute game-changer of an album.

This record feels really different. It doesn’t sound wildly different, and it certainly isn’t presenting anything particularly unexpected or out of character for the band, but there’s something about it that feels unique. This isn’t a record that just ticks another box on the Fall Out Boy journey; it feels like a sort of defining of their journey to this very moment. The welcome reintroduction of a more guitar-centric approach, the pulsating electronic nuances, the soulful emo-tinged melodies, the irresistible urge to dance that so many of its songs creates – it’s as though they’ve looked back at their discography, borrowed a little bit from each record and injected it into this one.

This isn’t a return to their roots, nor is it a continuing of how they’ve evolved and grown. This is, without a shadow of a doubt, the history of Fall Out Boy. It’s where they came from, where they’ve ended up and how they got there all wrapped up in one glorious aural delight. What a beautiful ride.

DAVE STEWART

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