Falling up the Ladder: Fall Out Boy

Chicago Fall Out BoyPhoto Credit

Some call them power-pop. Others emo. They were even dubbed the “eyelinered iteration of angry-boys-with-guitars” by Entertainment Weekly early in their career. Whatever you call them and wherever your sentiments lie, there’s no denying Fall Out Boy’s status as the Windy City’s token rock n’ roll punk boys.

The band of four was conceived in 2001 in suburban Wilmette, less then 15 miles north of Chicago. All four members had previously been involved in the area’s underground rock scene, and their early success was in large part due to their ability to maintain that tongue-in-cheek style while developing a mainstream sound record companies would be willing to market. And, of course, their popularity grew quickly in part due to colorful bassist/front man Pete Wentz. I, for one, remember the TRL episode (April 9, 2008) when Ashlee confirmed she was indeed engaged to Pete. I flipped.

One interesting bit about the band is the origin of their name. They played without a name for a few shows before soliciting the audience one night for suggestions. Their favorite? Simpsons fans recognize it as an ode to Radioactive Man’s sidekick Fallout Boy.

Once they chose a name, their rapid climb to success had begun. They self-released a demo in 2001 and a year later they pushed an EP with the Uprising label entitled Fall Out Boy/Project Rocket Split EP. The band remained with Uprising Records until the release of their first studio album in 2003.

Evening with your Girlfriend featured the band in its yet-to-be-polished sound, but it did well enough to have Island Records execs knocking at their door. The major label assisted in the recording expense of their next album in 2003, Take This to Your Grave. This second record showcased their transformation from a raw punk sound to grounded, more mature pop rock, launching Fall Out Boy from underground popularity to national fame. The 2003 album, featuring the singles “Dead on Arrival” and “Saturday,” shot into the top 20 on Billboard’s Independent Albums chart in early 2004.

They had become a rock gem — just as popular on stage as in the studio. To capitalize on this on-stage adoration, they released an acoustic EP My Heart Will Always Be the B-Side to My Tongue in 2004. The move paid off. The release was the band’s first of many appearances on the Billboard Pop Albums chart.

Fall Out Boy rode this success through a heavy tour schedule the next year, and, right on point, they released their third album (and first one to go double platinum) From Under the Cork Tree in the spring of 2005. The top-ten release introduced their newly-polished power tempo in songs like “Dance, Dance,” and “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down.” And two years later came their most successful album Infinity on High that included the #1 single “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race” and the overly lip-synched “Thnks Fr Th Mmrs.” Chicago’s inebriated karaoke scene would like to thank the band for that beautiful go-to.

Fast forward to December 2008. Out came album number five, Folie a Deux, which featured an alternative sound inspired by the boys’ emo roots. The new twist to their sound left some fans disgruntled, but the majority of Fall Out Boy lovers were welcome to the arguably more sophisticated, lyric-driven songs. The album reached number 8 on the Billboard 2000, thwarting any rumors that the band was on the verge of a break-up. Temporarily.

At only age eight, they — prematurely? — released a greatest hits album Believers Never Die in late 2009. Three days later they announced an indefinite break. In a November 2009 MTV interview front man Pete Wentz said if Fall Out Boy didn’t take a break they would “imminently implode.” But he was quick to contradict the media’s use of “hiatus,” saying that “hiatus… has gotten a dirty name.”

But Fall Out Boy fans can rest assured the band will probably re-unite. Wentz tweeted to calm down fans on November 8, 2009, “Dear wikipedia… fall out boy is not on ‘indefinite hiatus.” Front men never lie.

Hopefully they’ll again show that loaded gun complex; cock it and pull it. If not, thanks for the memories.

About Cheryl Thomas

Cheryl grew up in rural northern Indiana, where everyone is somehow related to a farmer and horse and buggy stations are in the Wal-Mart parking lots. She moved to Chicago a few months after graduating from IU and has since fallen hopelessly in love with the city. She likes trying new deep dish places, exploring used bookstores and dive bars, chatting with strangers on public transit, and all sorts of writing - especially fiction and playwriting.

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