I’ve been a Fall Out Boy listener since 2015, when I sat on the school bus home from fifth grade with nothing but the “American Beauty/American Psycho” album downloaded on my blue iPod Nano. They were my first concert in eighth grade when my friend’s dad scored tickets to the “Mania” tour.
The band has been together since 2001, four years older than me. They’ve released eight albums and sold over 8 million copies. Needless to say, Fall Out Boy has an almost insurmountable challenge with anything they release — living up to their own legacy, with both their fans and the charts.
Rising to the task is their first album in five years,“So Much (for) Stardust,” and overall it does a pretty good job.
“Love From the Other Side” sets the tone for the album with lyrics about a love that can persevere through the apocalypse. “Heartbreak Feels So Good” follows it up with a similar grungy yet hopeful vibe. There’s also “Heaven, Iowa,” where Patrick Stump’s powerful belt in the chorus balances out with synths and guitar to create a sound that blends classic rock and modern alternative in a way that is uniquely Fall Out Boy.
Sonically, these songs indicate a call back to the raw, intense style of their 2008 album “Folie á Deux,” regardless of how much the band’s members deny that “Stardust” is a “throwback album.”
That said, it’s clear that their style has matured since 2008. With a dark, funky guitar, “Hold Me Like a Grudge” is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Taylor Swift has called Pete Wentz her favorite lyricist and the lyric, “part-time soulmate, full-time problem,” stands out in his characteristic one-liner style.
At the midpoint of the album, we come to “The Pink Seashell.” This track took me a while to understand — it features Ethan Hawke’s monologue from the 1994 movie “Reality Bites,” which I haven’t seen. Despite my lack of familiarity with the context, I think it demonstrates a turning point in the album while adding depth to the balance of optimism and realism in the lyrics up to this point.
When it comes to the more upbeat tracks, while they diverge from the rest of the album’s sound — and the group’s identity as a whole — they add another dimension to the album and break up the harder-hitting songs.
“Fake Out” is hopeful and light-hearted in a style that reminds me of Paramore’s 2017 album “After Laughter,” and is another of my favorites from the album. “So Good Right Now” picks back up where “Fake Out” left off with a similarly optimistic sound but slightly darker lyrics.
However, there are a few tracks that don’t stand out.
“I Am My Own Muse” is a song that only makes sense with knowledge of just how long Fall Out Boy have been in the industry, and even then only works if it’s a little tongue-in-cheek — which I’m not entirely sure that it is. “Baby Annihilation” also confuses me as an interlude, and it doesn’t add anywhere near as much identity to “Stardust” as “The Pink Seashell” does.
“So Much (for) Stardust” lives up to the rest of Fall Out Boy’s discography, though it doesn’t push the envelope further than what they have already achieved. The album carries thematic complexity and interesting musicality throughout, but I felt as though it was missing something special that would set it apart from previous releases.
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Maybe it just needed a little more stardust.