A Look back at Fall Out Boy 2001 – 2009

By Chris Marshman

Since going on an indefinite hiatus a very long three years ago, the influence that Fall Out Boy have had on people that grew up during their tenure hasn’t dwindled one bit. When we asked our Facebook and Twitter likers and followers which Fall Out Boy song was their favourite, the response and the message was overwhelming – Fall Out Boy are dearly missed.

So how did this small pop punk band from Chicago end up becoming arguably one of the most successful pop punk bands to break into the mainstream? It all started back in early 2002 with Fall Out Boy’s first release – ‘Fall Out Boys Evening Out With Your Girlfriend’. Reportedly, the band weren’t overly pleased with the release and rarely harked back to it at all as they got bigger. It was a debut LP that was extremely rough around the edges, but the potential was there to see. It was enough to get them noticed, with the band signing to a young fueledbyramen Records in preparation for their second album – it was one that would set them off on an incredible journey.

A drummer swap and 18 months later, the band were in Wisconsin working on what would become ‘Take This to your Grave’. They were obviously being groomed for success at the time, with Island Records offering an advance to record the album with an option on first refusal for their following release. The two week recording process saw them sleep on floors and bargain for food, but the hard work was worth it, as they managed to produce one of the most incredible and influential pop punk releases in the genre’s history. It earned them a loyal fan base and recognition – not just in America but overseas too – and it’s the album that many still look back on today as their best. Despite that, it was their next release that would truly make them as a band. Their rise would soon become unstoppable.

It wasn’t all plain sailing though – as Fall Out Boys major label debut was nearing completion two years after the release of TTTYG, bassist Pete Wentz allowed the pressures of a major label record get to him, culminating in a suicide attempt resulting in him missing the band’s first headline tour in the UK.

At the time I was 15 years old and had just discovered my new favourite band. When I found out they’d be touring and playing near me I managed to get tickets after a lot of begging and negotiating and saw them play Swansea’s Escape Club with around 100 other lucky people. What followed was not only one of the best nights of my life but one that would influence my music choices and decisions for years to come. It was a night where I realised how much music meant to me and also why I appreciate this band as much as I do. Shortly afterwards, ‘From Under the Cork Tree’ was released and Fall Out Boy’s potential was realised. It was an album that had a seamless and natural transition from ‘Take This to Your Grave’. The snappy song titles were still there and the choruses were even bigger, but more importantly it didn’t alienate their initial fan base. First single ‘Sugar We’re Going Down’ catapulted them from a club band to one playing 2000 capacity plus sold out theatres in a very short amount of time. I still remember hearing it on Radio One and wondering where the hell they’d picked up on this band from. It’s the song that changed their lives, leading from the immediate commercial success to follow in their next two releases.

Little more than 18 months later and Fall Out Boy’s follow up to ‘From Under the Cork Tree’ was imminent. ‘Infinity On High’ was an album that represented Fall Out Boy at their creative peak, and nothing says ‘Yeah, you’ve made it’ more than getting your mate Jay-Z to open up your album for you. If that wasn’t enough, ‘Infinity On High’ made its debut at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart, an absolutely incredible achievement that eventually saw the album certified platinum within nine weeks of release.

However, it was an album that would start to see a divide in Fall Out Boy’s fan base. Lead single ‘This Ain’t a Scene… It’s an Arms Race’ was seen by many as a huge departure, and the sheer amount of experimentation on the album saw Fall Out Boy make the shift from pop punk to pop rock. It made their music more accessible to the mainstream and saw them playing arenas, leading to the usual “sell out” labels being thrown around.

In response, front man Patrick Stump said in an interview with AbsolutePunk just before the release of ‘Folie a Deux’ that he “could write, verbatim, another Take This To Your Grave, and you won’t feel the same way. It’s not going to mean anything to you because it wouldn’t mean anything to me. And another thing is, we feel like we’re still the same band. As far as how we’re motivated, we’re doing the same thing, we’re doing it the same way as we ever did with Take This To Your Grave.”

Looking back, it’s a valid response to a valid concern – the band was growing up and their music was too. It was an era in which Stump had matured and started to act like a frontman, and the shy kid from Chicago was coming into his own. His vocals were widely praised as a massive strong point on ‘Infinity on High,’ and this in turn seemed to boost his confidence. His on stage presence was improving tenfold and you only have to look at the video for ‘This Ain’t a Scene’ to see it. Personally… this is my favourite FOB album of the lot. It’s complete and utter wall to wall hits, even an album bonus track in ‘G.I.N.A.S.F.S’ to me, was one of the best songs they had ever written. In my opinion they perfectly captured the middle ground between staying loyal to their fanbase and becoming more accessible at the same time.

The problem with Fall Out Boy was that they never gave themselves time to just stop. Fifteen months after ‘Infinity On High’, the band were already in the studio writing and recording what would end up being their final release, ‘Folie a Deux’. If ‘Infinity on High’ didn’t split their fan base entirely then this record certainly did. Easily their poppiest release and continuing the trend of commercial success for the band, something about the record didn’t seem right.

The spark seemed to be fading in the release, and they genuinely looked like they needed a break. Their last UK tour came in March 2009, resulting in a show at London’s 20,000 capacity 02 Arena. An amazing achievement for any band, not least a pop punk band from Chicago. One of their final singles came in the form of ‘What a Catch, Donnie’ the bands swansong. Something tells me they might have always planned it this way. It’s an emotional retrospective look over their career that carries cameos from the likes of Brendan Urie and William Beckett reciting older song lyrics in the song’s outro. It was a moment that gave me chills and even today still brings a massive lump to my throat. Shortly after, the band announced what many suspected – an indefinite hiatus. Many knew it was coming, but it was still absolutely gutting to have it become a reality. The initial confusion regarding the announcement has since turned into various band members insisting that there was no big fall out – they still remained friends and they were keen to make sure everyone knew just that.

So, is there a future for Fall Out Boy? And if so what is it? One thing that’s for sure is that a reunion is still eagerly anticipated despite no forthcoming hints from the band teasing a anything of the sort. In a brief twitter exchange I had with Patrick he was keen to say that if FOB were to come back, it had to be for the right reasons and not for the money and I agree. I don’t want my favourite band to return just for a shameless cash in, I want them to return because they want to.

All that said, the tenth anniversary of ‘Take This to Your Grave’ is just around the corner.. would this be a perfect time to announce future plans? Who knows… Only Pete, Patrick, Andy and Joe can make the decision to work together again, I just hope that if the day comes that they decide to do so, then it’s one day soon.