June 5, 2023
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Life & Culture

Review: New Fall Out Boy record is a fall from grace

So Much (For) Stardust

Fueled by Ramen

Emo icon Fall Out Boy has returned to the spotlight with a new album that seeks to capture the highlights of its career so far — to varying degrees of success.

Fall Out Boy was the face of emo music for the 2000s. Hits like “Sugar, We’re Going Down” and “Dance, Dance” catapulted the band into the mainstream, cementing their pop-punk/emo sound in the 2000s zeitgeist. After a turbulent career that consisted of multi-platinum albums, an energetic Tumblr fandom and original songs for Disney movies, the group’s first LP since 2018, “So Much (For) Stardust” is finally here.

This album ranges from angsty poetic love songs to angsty poetic breakup songs, all with a 2020’s post-COVID sheen over it. It has consistency, but its comfort zone never completely captures the listener’s attention. Solid but unexciting songs like “Love From the Other Side” and “Heartbreak Feels So Good” are textbook Fall Out Boy songs. The dancy guitar hooks basted in sappy lyrics are begging to be scribbled into the margins of middle school textbooks.

“The Kintsugi Kid (Ten Years)” is the most mature (as well as the best) song on the album. The ethereal synths and guitar riffs lift the listener while the singing and drums ground the listener. It does not reinvent Fall Out Boys’ wheel, but it does try to run you over with it. “Heartbreak Feels So Good” is a reference to the Nicole Kidman AMC ad and some of the lyrics come from Jordan Peele’s movie “Nope,” which is a common occurrence in Fall Out Boy lyrics. And while the song “The Pink Seashell” is just Ethan Hawke’s monologue from “Reality Bites,” the instrumentation is a very solid piece of ambient music that is unexpected from Fall Out Boy. The same is true for Pete Wentz’s return to spoken word poetry, “Little Annihilation.”

But songs like “Heaven, Iowa” and “Fake Out” are just filler that erase all momentum the album has going. As a song, “Flu Game” does not know if it wants to sound like a rejected Panic! at the Disco cover or a deep cut from the high school musical soundtrack. And the songs “I Am My Own Muse” and “What a Time To Be Alive” have a Danny Elfman and Olivia Newton-John style that Fall Out Boy fails to capture in any entertaining way.

“So Much (For) Stardust” is the band’s most Fall Out Boysounding album. While all its previous works evolved their sound further, this LP feels like a contemplation of its past achievements rather than looking for the next steps forward. This is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it is great that Fall Out Boy has a consistent sound that has lasted for decades, but if listeners don’t like it then there is nothing here for them. And it feels like Fall Out Boy just slapped a shiny new coat of paint on themselves rather than faced up to the facts … Fall Out Boy is old.

It is a natural occurrence for bands after their stay in the mainstream and it will happen to everyone’s favorite band. Fall Out Boy has already started making the transition from rock to dad rock, and that is okay. Fall Out Boy got their start in punk ideology, which gave their older songs heart and a greater sense of being. As the band got older, the poetic lyrics about heartbreak, society and everything else felt shallower. Now, all we are left with is a hollow husk of pop punk.

“So Much (For) Stardust” alternates between respecting the past and spitting on it, and it does take a toll on the music. But when Fall Out Boy is in their comfort zone, this album can still be a good time. Some pieces have listeners anticipating something more substantial in the future, but if this is the last ever Fall Out Boy album, then it is a fitting end.

Andrew Tell can be reached at atell@ithaca.edu