2005 was a huge year for the band with From Under The Cork Tree peaking at number 9 on the albums chart, selling over 2.7 million copies with 2 top 10 hits in the form of Dance, Dance and Sugar, We’re Going Down. There was a lot of pressure on the band for the follow up to Cork Tree to say the least.
So 2 years later, what did the band give us?
A lot, I feel like this album could have easily been a directionless overly polished disaster full of weird experiments that simply didn't stick if the songs weren’t good enough. On the other hand I also feel like this is the only album FOB could have made to remain relevant, the other bands were stepping it up, MCR made their rock opera magnum opus, Panic! were experimenting and deviating from the pop punk sounds on their debut and resulted in huge successes, in a lot of ways, the style Fall Out Boy had was about to become a thing of the past, they were either gonna evolve or become another forgotten band from the 2000s pop punk scene, and they for sure evolved but the question is did they even have a place in music by 2007?
This was the first time the band tried to go outside of their at the time somewhat unique take on emo pop-punk and in comparison with the last 2 albums, it’s super diverse stylistically with elements of pop, pop-rock, even funk and a bit of hip-hop on songs like This Ain’t a Scene.
Everything felt a lot more polished and clean compared to the first 2 records, Pete doesn’t scream nearly as much (not that he screamed a lot lets be honest), it's really only on The Carpal Tunnel Of Love, it however is a pretty huge highlight on the album and the band were seemingly growing out of that sound. It’s not a total departure though, the 2nd half is filled with a ton of pop-punk tracks like Fame<Infamy, Bang The Doldrums and the aforementioned Carpal Tunnel being examples of more traditional pop-punk tracks on the album.
Which for some can be an issue, there’s a reason people talk more about the shit that's in the first half than in the 2nd, with them being more traditional it also means they’re more forgettable and don’t stand out that much...right?
Well in theory yes but in practice it’s more of the songs just speaking for themselves, great hooks and riffs carry these songs just as much as the new elements and sounds found in the first half carry it so while not every song stands on it’s own perfectly. Your enjoyment of the album depends on what you’re looking for in it, if you want more pop-punk, you got it, if you want something a little different, you also got it. You could say…*it has a little something for everyone*, I’m sorry for that, still though.
Now I don't think I need to tell you that this album was a huge success commercially nor that it was received well by fans and critics alike but I do have to say that this album still goes hard even today, even without any nostalgic feelings towards it, by itself this album still slaps and I think that’s a testament to how good Fall Out Boy were at creating catchy songs that held your attention for their entire duration and never failed to keep it fun. I think the writing is another pretty big reason why this album still holds up. A lot of bands from the time were taking themselves really seriously and felt melodramatic with not much room for self awareness, look I love early Panic! A LOT but they were taking themselves more seriously than maybe they should have. Fall Out Boy on the other hand took on a very, ironic let's laugh at ourselves asshole attitude (if that makes any sense), the lyrics can be self-deprecating in places and I think that’s one of the things that makes this album more likeable. For as confident and full of itself as This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race can be, there's also them saying shit like “I wrote the gospel on giving up”. Though irony can be lost given that the vocals are really trying to sell it straight and then you get the Modern Eminem/Limp Bizkit problem where you can’t tell whether they’re being serious or not and which one would make it better. I mean going back to This Ain’t A Scene, it's a song making fun at how people think their lives are yet Patrick sings it like that IS how they are which can ruin the song...but god damn the vocals are way too good for that. Patrick really started to come into his own on this album, he sounded great before but this is just a whole new level for him, is it still hard to get what he’s singing sometimes? Yeah (fr I honestly thought that arms race went “I’m an evil man” instead of “I’m a leading man” for a very long time) but it’s still not much of an issue because he sounds just that good. It’s his most consistent vocal performance yet, there aren’t many if any rough moments here from him like there were, say on some songs on the debut (look I love Grand Theft Autumn but the vocals sound rough at times), he’s more expressive now and just more impressive. He sounds huge on songs like Thnks Fr Th Mmrs.
Do I think this is better than Cork Tree? Yeah, it's more diverse, better written, more fun and overall just better put together. This has their best pop moments and their best heavy moments (Thriller has such a great breakdown at the start, love the drumming, kinda metalcore-ish tbh, maybe it’s just me) buuut it’s not their best because the best has yet to come and I’ll cover that one out soon...in like 8 months at this rate.
This album is one of my fav pop punk records, features some of my fav songs of all time and imo features some of the best writing of this era, Pete isn’t a perfect writer but his writing is very unique to him and its clever enough to work with the (at points) overuse of overly complicated shaky metaphors and phrases that don’t make much sense giving more to the album’s charm rather than taking it, they leaned into writing about their newfound fame on this album which makes the songs easier to follow (months later, still don't know what Sugar We’re Going Down is about) but didn’t lose any of the soul that made the older songs so good. I’d easily recommend this album to anyone who even has a slight interest in pop rock or pop punk because it’s just that good.
Fav Tracks: Thriller, Thnks Fr Th Mmrs, This Ain’t A Scene It’s An Arms Race, “The Take Over, The Breaks Over”, Golden, You’re Crashing But You’re No Wave, Hum Hallelujah, I’ve Got All This Ringing…, The Carpal Tunnel Of Love and I’m Like A Lawyer With The Way I’m Always Trying To Get You Off (title’s way too good for me not to type it all out)