Reflecting On: Fall Out Boy – Infinity on High

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I believe Infinity on High to be Fall Out Boy’s best album, but there’s plenty of room for debate. What’s not up for debate is the fact that the scene will never again see the heights it reached by the time the album released.

Between the moment “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” hit radio airwaves in 2005 and the opening notes of “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race” first graced our speakers in early 2007, things had changed. Underoath had a gold record. Gym Class Heroes were in regular rotation on top 40 radio. Cartel had signed on for an MTV reality show. Panic! at the Disco had graced the cover of Rolling Stone. A few months later, Paramore would crash the party and go platinum.

You can buy Infinity on High on iTunes.

You can buy Infinity on High on iTunes.

To say that the stakes were high for Fall Out Boy leading up to the release of Infinity on High would be putting it lightly. With From Under the Cork Tree, the band had fallen backwards into unlikely stardom, effectively dragging an entire scene into the spotlight with them. Was Fall Out Boy’s success a flash in the pan, or were they truly an outlier – a band with legs that could carry them far beyond the confines of the Warped Tour bubble?

Infinity on High did not disappoint, and in hindsight, it’s easy to look back at the album as the moment that Fall Out Boy lifted the title belt as the clear winner of the very competition they inadvertently started.

If you’re like me, you can easily recall certain moments outside of the music itself that stick out in your mind. The shock of hearing Jay-Z’s voice open the album, declaring the band’s arrival on the big stage. Walking into a Circuit City and seeing the video for “This Ain’t a Scene” playing on every TV screen in the store. Finding the band on the cover of magazines and tabloids in every check out line, exuding an air of emo indifference.

Ironically, it was this very fame and the suffocation it breeds that led Pete Wentz to unleash his pen in retaliation. Wentz had already cemented himself as a narcissistic, silver-tongued lyricist before Infinity, but decided to turn his attention away from perpetual heartbreak and self-destruction and toward critics, haters, the scene and even himself.

Wentz flashes his pessimism on “The Take Over, The Breaks Over” with, “They say your head can be a prison, then these are just conjugal visits / People will dissect us till this doesn’t mean a thing anymore”. Moments later on “This Ain’t a Scene”, he dismisses the late arrivals: “This bandwagon’s full / Please, catch another”.

With the release of Infinity, the days of starry-eyed Chicago boys with dreams of a breakthrough would forever be over. The consequences of those achievements proved to be even more compelling. Wentz’s ability to communicate the resulting pain in between his rapid cocksure gunfire remains both legendary and poignant in lines like, “The only thing I haven’t done yet is die / And it’s me and my plus one at the afterlife” and “I sing the blues and swallow them, too”.

With lyrics this meaty and full of double meanings and unexpected turns of phrase, translation into digestible bites would have been nearly impossible had Patrick Stump not come into his own at just the right moment. On Infinity, Stump makes his first major transition from pop punk crooner to pop star diva, taking full advantage of his vocal range. His high notes are higher, his runs are more daring, his melodies are tighter. With the band now fully incorporating R&B, pop and soul elements, it provided the perfect platform for a star to appear right before our very eyes.

As a result, the band’s most unrelatable album became a smashing success on the charts. Half victory lap around the ring, half vicious rebuttal to naysayers, Infinity on High succeeded amidst Wentz’s snark thanks to a sonically diverse experience that elevated the band out of the pop punk mire. Even so, early signs of the band’s crash landing hiatus could be seen on the horizon, with Stump and Wentz fighting for the proverbial spotlight with drummer Andy Hurley and guitarist Joe Trohman watching from the sidelines.

As clear as the warning signs were, it’s also obvious that this period of the band’s career made their later comeback possible. Fall Out Boy’s 2013 rebirth and subsequent return to the top of the charts speaks volumes to the clout the band has earned. Following the events of 2007, the scene at large would begin to descend back to its original home in the underground with only a few stars surving the oversaturation.

A decade later, it’s nearly impossible to imagine a band from our scene rising to fame as quickly and powerfully as Fall Out Boy. Could another band be this divisive? Be this willing and able to transform? Have this much longevity? Love them or hate them, Fall Out Boy are still the undisputed champions of a short-lived arms race, with Infinity on High standing as a monument to a time when the sky was the limit. Long live the car crash hearts.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Reflecting On: Fall Out Boy – From Under The Cork Tree

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From Under the Cork Tree was an album that slipped under my nose entirely when it first came out. I was too busy gushing over New Found Glory and Saves the Day to notice Fall Out Boy, a band that seemed to rise out of nowhere, thanks to a swanky music video for “Sugar We’re Goin Down” that featured a boy with buck antlers winning the heart of a young lass.

That video was everywhere. The song dominated the airwaves of radio and television alike in the summer of 2005, the likes of which we haven’t seen since. From Under The Cork tree is important, and not only for being the album that gave rise to arguably the biggest rock and roll megastars of their generation. It signaled a new era of pop punk unlike any that had come before it, as well as the death of the genre to mainstream media.

Fall Out Boy was already a big name to those paying attention at the release of the album, but they were staples as soon as “Sugar We’re Goin Down” landed. The album is a lesson in swagger that the genre had never really seen before. Pop punk is grounded in songs about girls, but few brought the confidence and sexiness to the genre like Pete Wentz.

“Of All the Gin Joints In All the World” has Patrick Stump singing, “Turn off the lights and turn off the shyness / Cause all of our moves make up for the silence / And oh, the way your makeup stains my pillowcase / Like I’ll never be the same”. In the same breath, the instant meta-introspection kicks in as he sings, “You only hold me up like this / Cause you don’t know who I really am”, questioning the value of romance when fame overshadows everything else.

The album was a versatile beast, sounding deeper and more thoughtful than anything else competing for attention. It tackled every convention; the standard pop song (“A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More “Touch Me””), the rocker (“Champagne For My Real Friends, Real Pain For My Sham Friends”) and the obligatory acoustic ballad.

For a song that slows the record down, “I’ve Got A Dark Alley And A Bad Idea That Says You Should Shut Your Mouth (Summer Song)” touches a critical spot of insecurity for anyone just coming to terms with themselves as Stump sings, “We’re the kids who feel like dead ends / And I want to be known for my hits, not just my misses / I took a shot and didn’t even come close / At trust and love and hope / And the poets are just kids who didn’t make it / And never had it at all”.

From Under The Cork Tree is a rare exception in pop punk. All too often, great albums fall under the radar and fail to get the credit they deserve for forging a new path. Not only did this album get recognized as a game changer, it launched Fall Out Boy’s career to one of the biggest acts on the planet and it changed the genre as a whole.

Pop punk faded from mainstream music shortly after this album released, whether by the taste of the public or the fact that bands tried to imitate them almost immediately, to varying results. Pop punk sank back to the underground genre it had been before Blink-182 put it in the public’s eye.

One positive effect was that bands wanting that kind of success had to try harder. Pete Wentz’s own Decaydance record label (a part of powerhouse Fueled By Ramen) gained traction after the album. For a solid two to three years, the best bands in the business (Panic! At the Disco, Cobra Starship, Gym Class Heroes and The Academy Is…, each of which made their own significant splashes on the scene) were either signed to Decaydance or had some type of relationship to FOB.

One of the more remarkable aspects of From Under The Cork Tree is just how different it sounds from the FOB of today. Pop punk was used as a spring board to launch the band into a direction of intense, dark pop music unlike anything else out there. This record helped redefine a genre already rich in identity, but after returning from hiatus two years ago, the band have constantly redefined themselves. From Under The Cork Tree started a long trend of fans arguing which era and album from FOB’s career is the best for the last ten years. It’s an evolution, and a successful one, that no one knew could be possible.

From Under The Cork Tree ushered in the modern era of pop punk, and is more or less the foundation that a sizable amount of up and coming bands base themselves on, even now. Ten years later, we’re still feeling the ripple effects of its initial release. Whether you love or hate Fall Out Boy, there’s no denying that this one album single-handedly changed an entire genre of music.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and would like to hug Patrick Stump for an uncomfortable amount of time.

Most Anticipated of 2015: #4 Fall Out Boy – American Beauty/American Psycho

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It still feels hard to believe that Fall Out Boy returned from their hiatus in 2013 with such a bang. Save Rock and Roll was a shining example of how to make a comeback and proved forcefully the vitality and importance of this scene. The good news is, the band isn’t finished yet – not by a long shot.

Later this month, Fall Out Boy will release their sixth studio album, American Beauty/American Psycho, an album that already has one platinum single in “Centuries”. That song, a defiant cry for attention, is a pop rock masterpiece. Each subsequent sneak peak into the album’s contents has been increasingly diverse and unique.

It seems that fans of Save Rock and Roll won’t be disappointed in the slightest, and listeners who hope for an even greater departure into the modern day alt rock waters will be quite pleased as well. Those who claim the band has sold out or lost their soul need not apply – American Beauty/American Psycho is Fall Out Boy at their best in 2015, like it or not.

Pete Wentz and Patrick Stump have made clear that the band has no intentions of growing stagnant or staying on one sonic playground for too long. Instead, they hope to explore new and dangerous angles to their genre that haven’t yet been discovered by the band. For a group that’s conquered the music world twice over, who’s to tell them, “no”?

Fall Out Boy has come a long way since the release of pop punk classic Take This To Your Grave back in 2003. This year marks the 10-year anniversary of their breakthrough album From Under The Cork Tree, a modern emo classic. It’s safe to say that no anniversary tours are in the works. Instead, the band is facing toward the future and has no plans of looking back.

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.