It’s funny to think about it in these terms, but the music world is, more or less, a generation removed from the emo-pop revolution of the early ‘aughts. Seen an Atticus shirt or been in a Hot Topic lately? No, because that generation has grown up and, congruently, progressed in terms of musical taste. They’re not reciting words of broken hearts and secret crushes. Fueled By Ramen itself, a leader in pushing the genre, carries almost a completely different sound 15 years after its launch. Where The Academy Is … , Yellowcard and even Jimmy Eat World, for a short time, used to release tales of teenage angst, Cobra Starship sings about bottle service and dancing, Sublime With Rome strives to recapture the magic of a sound a coast away, and Gym Class Heroes drop singles with Maroon 5.
But, during FBR’s golden era, they gave the emo-pop generation just what they needed: Fall Out Boy, a band who paid their dues growing up in the independent music scene of Illinois. A band that featured the dynamics needed to become the biggest band in the world: An egotistical lyricist with eyes on world domination and a baby-faced frontman with the voice of a less-cool Prince, but none of the maturity needed. Pete Wentz and Patrick Stump became the face of that generation—Wentz for penning the lyrics sung by millions and Stump for showing them the accompanying melody. Andy Hurley and Joe Trohman joined them in becoming the poster boys of emo-pop. Like everything that’s cool, it gets popular and become morbidly uncool (see: MTV) and Fall Out Boy was no exception. As Pete’s head became more and more focused on the aforementioned world domination and blonde starlets, Fall Out Boy morphed into something they weren’t over the years. After From Under the Cork Tree, the distance within the band was evident with each subsequent record (the Jay-Z collab on Infinity On High was still pretty dope, though). It all became more pop, with most of the emotion left behind a few years prior.
But, for one seminal moment, Fall Out Boy crafted the album that would become the snap shot of the genre. Take This To Your Grave was a record that was everything the generation was after—the most gut-wrenching words you could ever say about your ex masked by upbeat, danceable instrumentals and call-and-response choruses. Wentz vented about every love he was ever scorned and millions of heartbroken teens lived vicariously through him.
“Let’s play this game called ‘when you catch fire’/I wouldn’t piss to put you out,” Stump passionately recites early into the album, setting a tone that this is no place for cold-hearted queens. It is music that is vindictive on the surface, but deep down is the cry of a hopeless romantic with nothing kind to say.
It also launched what would be one of the staples of the band from that point on: absurdly long, but enjoyably witty song titles. Whether borrowing a line from their favorite Wes Anderson flick Rushmore (“Tell That Mick He Just Made My List of Things To Do Today”), beating the hipsters to the punch (“Chicago Is So Two Years Ago”) or letting a girl know how they really feel (“Sending Postcards From a Plane Crash, Wish You Were Here”), the names added just another emo-twist the genre could get on board with.
The music itself was something that translated smoothly from the stage to the car stereo. Sing-alongs like the chorus of “Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy” (“Where is your boy tonight, I hope he is a gentleman/Maybe he won’t find out what I know, you were the last good thing about this part of town”) became anthems of a conflicted generation. It gave joy to heartache. It became fun to sing about that girl who had you in tears for a week because now they could be metaphorically choked with guitar strings. But, there were also moments when the heartache became heartfelt. This is mostly evident on “Grenade Jumper” when the guys give a belated shot out to a friend, regaling memories of their own youth.
Power chords, power ballads and a few “f*** you”s mounted to a pivotal moment in a lot of lives that now work for major corporations, teach kids history or write about music for a living. It was the sing-along album that Sesame Street never released because it was a subject Super Grover never addressed. The emo-pop generation grew up because emotions themselves grow. Most 28-year-olds don’t still harbor grudges against the girl that stood them up at the prom, … or do they? Regardless, everyone needed that moment in their lives that was a stepping stone to the next moment, and for a lot of kids, Take This To Your Grave was it. It’s not a bad one to go back to every now and then, either. They went nowhere fast and took us all there with them.
Fall Out Boy – Take This to Your Grave tracklist:
- “Tell That Mick He Just Made My List of Things To Do Today”
- “Dead on Arrival”
- “Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy”
- “Homesick at Space Camp”
- “Sending Postcards from a Plane Crash (Wish You Were Here)”
- “Chicago Is So Two Years Ago”
- “The Pros and Cons of Breathing”
- “Grenade Jumper”
- “Calm Before the Storm”
- “Reinventing the Wheel to Run Myself Over”
- “The Patron Saint of Liars and Fakes”