Fall Out Boy Reclaim Some Glory on 'So Much (for) Stardust'
Published Mar 23, 2023Fall Out Boy always commit to the bit. Throughout their 20+ year career, the band have thrown themselves into whatever they're doing whole hog. Working with Jay-Z? Give them their own Roc-A-Fella chains! Making pop records? Someone call Sia!
So when the band decide it's time to circle the wagons, stop chasing pop trends and get back to making big rock records, Fall Out Boy are all in. Cue the orchestra.
Opening with a piano and string suite, before segueing into hammering guitar riffs, "Love from the Other Side" makes clear that the pandemic did nothing to blunt the band's maximalist tendencies. Yet they outdo themselves just a few songs later with the Kashmir-esque thump of "I Am My Own Muse," which makes a strong case for Fall Out Boy as future Bond theme performers. Elsewhere "Heartbreak Feels So Good" is a classic FOB banger, while "Fake Out" highlights how the band are as good at penning breezy pop-rock tunes as they are at bombast.
So Much (for) Stardust, the band's first record in five years, purports to pick up musically where 2008's Folie à Deux left off. Working with Folie, Infinity on High and From Under the Cork Tree producer Neal Avron, back on Fueled by Ramen for the first time since their debut and featuring song titles like "Hold Me Like a Grudge," the record has all the makings of fan service catnip — it's to the band's credit that it never comes off as such.
Yet this retconning of the band's history essentially erases 15 years of musical progress. Sure, 2018's M A N I A was a bit of a mess, but the other two records the band made in that period were pretty good, and did well commercially. Singer and primary composer Patrick Stump's musical ambitions have usually led the band into interesting territory, with their participation on hyperpop weirdos 100 Gecs' "Hand Crushed by Mallet" remix being only the most recent example.
Still, putting the tiger back in a 15-year-old cage works well for the band, for the most part. You can feel Stump chafing against the creative box he's put himself back in, and the tension it creates in the music gives many of these songs a sense of immediacy. "The Pink Seashell," — which sets an Ethan Hawke monologue from Reality Bites to music — was an odd choice, and power ballad "Heaven, Iowa" feels like a bit too much, even by Fall Out Boy standards. But melodic interpolations of "Jackie Wilson Says" and "Papa Don't Preach" (on "So Good Right Now" and "What a Time to Be Alive," respectively) work surprisingly well; both tracks are clear highlights.
As its creation myth would suggest, So Much (for) Stardust is probably Fall Out Boy's best album in 15 years. Yet that should come as neither a repudiation of what's happened to the band during that period nor, one would hope, that the band's musical ambitions have been blunted. That they even have such ambitions this deep into their career is impressive — that they can still bring them to bear without making themselves look foolish is a goddamned miracle. (Fueled by Ramen)