Fall Out Boy’s eighth album, ‘So Much (For) Stardust’, begins with delicate piano keys, cinematic string arrangements and vocalist Patrick Stump singing with an angry edge. The Chicago band’s quick-witted lyrics follow as the tempo picks up and Stump asserts, “I’d never go / I just want to be invited” right before he is “sending my love from the other side of the apocalypse”. ‘Love From The Other Side’ is a strong start for the band’s first collection of music in more than five years, gently (then abruptly) pulling themselves back onto the pop-punk rollercoaster that FOB strapped themselves onto more than two decades ago.
‘So Much (For) Stardust’ marks multiple returns for the band, and not just back to their larger-than-life roots. Stump, bassist Pete Wentz, guitarist Joe Trohman and drummer Andy Hurley tapped up Fueled By Ramen [Paramore, Meet Me @ The Altar] for the release, marking the first time they’ve worked with the infamous emo label since their debut, 2003’s ‘Take This To Your Grave’. The band also went back into the studio with Neal Avron, who lent his production to some of FOB biggest moments, like 2005’s ‘From Under The Cork Tree’, 2007’s ‘Infinity On High’ and 2008’s ‘Folie À Deux’.
The band’s last album, 2018’s ‘Mania’ saw them travelling “worlds away from the smart pop punk” of their earlier releases, even embracing EDM with their track ‘Young And Menace’. But with their latest collection, evolution looks less like diverging from their past and more like learning from and expanding it.
But even the album’s heaviest moments give fans something unexpected. Take the second track ‘Hold Me Like A Grudge’, which rocks in with a retro disco funk, elevating an ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ bass line with distorted guitars at the bridge. ‘Heaven, Iowa’ takes on the same slowly building rattling percussion of Phil Collins‘ ‘In The Air Tonight’, before Stump shouts: “Scar crossed lovers forever/ I’m checking myself out forever”. ‘I Am My Own Muse’ enlists an entire orchestra as it squares up to the same surging strings and gritty guitar play of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’. It’s an album brimming with audacious leaps, and they land most of them.
Speaking of audacity, there’s a song on the album that isn’t a song at all, but the playback of a speech given by Ethan Hawke in the 1994 film Reality Bites. ‘The Pink Seashell’ sees Hawke’s character dwelling on the mundanity and meaninglessness of life. The band recently explained that their latest offering is a remedy to that way of thinking, a way of finding purpose by making something new. Fitting, right?
‘So Much (For) Stardust’, brings all the early ’00s nostalgia without the gimmicks. It also doesn’t take itself too seriously: see the spoken word intro of “an alligator prince with crocodile tears” of ‘Baby Annihilation’. A rock titan set with the task of advancing their sound in a way that can still appease the sensibilities of lifelong fans could be daunting, but Fall Out Boy pull it off.
- Release date: March 24, 2023
- Record label: Fueled by Ramen / Elektra