Fall Out Boy

   Fall Out Boy's Evening Out With Your Girlfriend (Uprising, 2003)
   Take This To Your Grave (Fueled By Ramen, 2003)
     From Under a Cork Tree (Island Def Jam, 2005)
     Infinity on High (Island Def Jam, 2007)
    * * * * Live in Phoenix (Island Def Jam, 2008)
    Folie a Deux (Island Def Jam, 2009)
    Believers Never Die: Greatest Hits (Island Def Jam, 2009)

Fall Out Boy emerged as the pimple-faced kings of emo music in the 2000s. Four Chicago guys who mixed adolescent humor and heart-on-sleeve lyrics, they turned out candy-coated anthems that connected big time with skinny-jeans-wearing teen girls. In a decade of ever-dwindling record sales, FOB made the most of marketing their music on sites like MySpace; in 2007, singer-guitarist Patrick Stump made the line, "Every dot-com's refreshing for a journal update" sound anthemic. FOB sold out arenas and scored a Rolling Stone cover, and Pete Wentz—the band's heavily mascara'd bassist, songwriter and leader—became a big celebrity and an entrepreneur, marrying Ashley Simpson, starting a clothing company, and signing bands like Panic! At the Disco to his label, Decaydence.

Formed in Chicago in 2001, FOB cut their teeth as a Warped Tour act. But even on their first two records—Fall Out Boy's Evening Out With Your Girlfriend and Take This To Your Grave—FOB showed a knack for mixing caffeinated, up-tempo tunes with sensitive, tortured lyrics, thanks to the self-conscious Wentz filling the role of chief lyricist and Stump as chief songwriter. Tracks like "Sending Postcards from a Plane Crash (Wish You Were Here)" deal largely with Wentz' break-up with an unfaithful ex over punk riffs that are buoyant and crunchy. Overall, it's the run-of-the-mill stuff you'd hear from just about any other Warped Tour act.

But FOB ratcheted up their ambitions for their breakthrough, From Under a Cork Tree. The group sounds poised for their newfound fame, especially on self-referential tracks like the exhaustingly-titled 'Our Lawyers Made Us Change the Name of the Song (So We Wouldn't Get Sued)" and "Sophomore Slump or Comeback of the Year." Still, FOB's knack for crafting ginormous, soaring anthems is in full-force: even with it's demented, inscrutable lyrics, "Sugar, We're Going Down" will likely still be blasting from radios ten years on.

Of course, FOB attracted plenty of naysayers and they deal with the clichéd trappings of their overblown celebrity on Infinity on High, which featured their strongest songs to date. The record kicks off with Stump yowling, "Make us poster boys for your scene/ But we are not making an acceptance speech." Elsewhere, Jay-Z and Babyface make guest appearances, along with a who's-who of emo-pop, including members of The Academy Is... and New Found Glory. Overall, this is FOB doing what they do best—huge hooks, goofy lyrics ("Thanks fr th Mmrs") —only with a bigger production budget.

Near the end of the decade, every emo band seemed to be interchangeable. Cobra Starships and Cute Is What We Aim Fors and Panic! At the Discos popped up at a dizzingly fast rate. But FOB were still out to prove they were kings of the scene and the resulting disc—Folie a Deux—is gloriously and ridiculously overblown. "Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes" is pure rock-opera excess, with funeral organs giving way to echo-soaked drums and choral vocals. "Headfirst Slide into Cooperstown on a Bad Bet" piles marching-school-band horns, cathedral bells and classical strings atop funk riffs, heavy-metal shredding and lame rap-rock beats. By the end of the decade, emo became a parody of itself, but with Folie, it at least went down swinging.

Portions of this album guide appeared in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (Fireside, 2004).

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