Features, Friday Night Dinner Discussions

Fall Out Boy’s From Under The Cork Tree: A Discussion

One fateful evening in 2012, kismet pulled Reina and Gauraa into a porch conversation about Bishop Allen. They realized, despite having grown up 8,657 miles apart, they had listened to the same records, subscribed to the same podcasts and shared the same pretensions. Separated by distance again, the two have decided to pull all the stops necessary to preserve their insular culture of staying in and overanalyzing music. You can read their first dinner discussion here. Tonight, Reina and Gauraa cancel their plans to discuss one of the records that brought them together, Fall Out Boy’s 2005 release From Under The Cork Tree.

fall-out-boy-from-under-the

Reina: 2 Fridays ago was my birthday, and I was going to plan a belated dinner or something tonight with some friends from high school, but honestly, what’s the point of celebrating a birthday if you don’t get to spend it with your best friend, right? I’d rather chat with you on the Internet than actually spend time with real people who probably only feel obligated to care about my birthday because I made them feel bad about forgetting it two weeks ago.

Gauraa: Absolutely. I think we learnt that lesson last June when I tried to spend my birthday with other people (see: the night I blubbered through a Friday Night Dinner Discussion™ about Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience.) I was supposed to watch the “preposterously entertaining” Girl on the Train tonight but both you and I know that wasn’t going to happen (for going out on Friday night is unthinkable!) so this discussion probably saved me from falling down a rabbit hole of Buzzfeed community articles. But before I make you tell me how you really, truly feel about From Under The Cork Tree, can we please talk about Pete Wentz’s career as Author? Did you have any idea that he’s written, like, eight books?

Reina: What even? Is it akin to Snooki’s book (or apparently 5 books that she has written?!)

Gauraa: Wait, Snooki’s written FIVE books?! Like, who is buying these books? It pains me that our generation remains unfamiliar with Tolstoy but is willing to shell out $20 to read It’s A Shore Thing. I digress. Allow me to read a little blurb from his latest, Grey (MTV Books, 2013): “Imagine you are on a tour bus, the miles whistling away beneath you as you sleep. Tomorrow you will wake up in downtown Somewhere. It doesn’t matter. All the skylines look the same. Time is only marked by events. The world is on a first-name basis with you. But you…you barely even know yourself. There are those who give in completely to the idea of what it means to be famous. And those who can’t ever seem to leave the past behind. Life is a deep and contemplative story stuck on repeat—love, loss, self-destruction, self-discovery. If you could go back to the way things were before you made it…would everything still be gray?” Um, thoughts?

Reina: I’m wondering what the context of this book is? Is it a work of fiction? Fiction based on real life events? A memoir? An autobiography? Depending on the format, my opinion would change slightly, but overall I think it’s “a contemplative story stuck on repeat.” I can’t believe anyone would buy this ? ?

Gauraa: You question this now, but it’s probably a good thing we didn’t have Amazon accounts at thirteen. Alright, publishing careers aside, do enlighten me: how do you feel about From Under The Cork Tree?

Reina: Fall Out Boy found me at a weird time in my life. I had just finished the 5th grade, just started my period, and just found out that it’s possible to like someone so much, it hurts your head. I would go home after school and turn on MTV or Fuse hoping to escape the spooky new reality that was my life, where I was expected to bleed out monthly, shave my legs, like boys that didn’t like me back, and be ok with it. It was the age where I first learned to start comparing myself to other people and feel bad about myself for number of reasons. It’s also the year I fell in love with music videos. I watched MTV Hits, the cable channel that, at the time, played music videos 24/7 and introduced me to a whole slew of hits and misses. One of the first music videos that I remember stopping me dead in my tracks was “Sugar We’re Goin’ Down.” I was still in the process of figuring out what music I liked to listen to, but I knew I liked this the moment I heard the first few cymbal crashes. “Am I more than you bargained for yet? I’ve been dying to tell you anything you want to hear, ‘cause that’s just who I am this week.” For a young girl still trying to figure who I was at the time, these words were somehow reassuring. I can’t really explain it, but in various stages of my middle school, high school, college life, and actually, even now, Fall Out Boy helped keep me together when my life threatened to fall apart. Fall Out Boy, and this album in particular has helped me make friends at every stage of my life, and I don’t know if you feel this, but there’s an unspoken understanding when you spend time with someone who can waste time listening to From Under The Cork Tree.

Gauraa: Reina, no time spent listening to From Under The Cork Tree is wasted time. As you may remember, 2005 was quite an unorthodox year for the industry. Music supervisors had evolved into house organs of the Myspace scene, pulling bands out of cyberspace and bringing them onto television sets, weaving their members into fictional threads. While the O.C. pulled for Rooney, Death Cab, Bright Eyes, the Shins and a then-barely-known Killers through resident music geek Seth Cohen, One Tree Hill channeled their musical narrative through goth-cheerleader-existential-goddess Peyton Sawyer. Peyton Sawyer, who dropped her needle on bands like Jimmy Eat World, Cursive, The Replacements and Bauhaus. Peyton Sawyer, who bequeathed to me her record crate and all its contents. And on the third season of One Tree Hill, Ms. Sawyer booked a relatively unknown Fall Out Boy to play her new venue TRIC on Halloween night. And so it begun: episodes were named after Fall Out Boy song titles, Pete Wentz fell in love with a high school cheerleader, and screaming fans of the show all over the world rushed to the nearest record store to buy their records. I was one of those fans. Thirteen and impressionable, I fell in love with Pete Wentz in all his guylinered, sloppy side-swept banged glory. It was morally permissible after all since he was the quick-witted lyricist (“My pen is the barrel of the gun.” Lyricists are Gods, never forget). Obviously, it didn’t hurt that Patrick Stump had gold-plated tonsils, either. Fall Out Boy sang from the standpoint of teenage boys wanting to be men of consequence, but wrote with an element of exactness, a perspective which only age could confer. They brought to us what we needed the most back then: mock-adult sobriety. With them sleeping (in) on our team, we could press our conscience and scratch the edges of adolescence.

Well, I suppose this is the part where you’ve come to expect a ritualized “back in my time” discourse from me but I regret to inform you the anecdote I have at hand is almost too painful to revisit. Allow me to digress here with a tale from the time I got a tattoo in the presence of Pete Wentz instead. Children, prepare to roll your eyes in silent despair: Eighteen, clumsy and shy, I had walked into Syracuse’s esteemed Halo Tattoo in hope to cover up a failed crescent-moon shaped stick-and-poke my roommate etched into skin my freshman year of college. I will not tell you what I got tattooed over it except that it was significantly larger and not necessarily better than the one before it. I was sweaty and nervous, gripping the hand of a friend, when Pete Wentz walked in with young Bronx  Mowgli Wentz, then aged 4. I sat on my leather seat for the next three hours, stealing glances at Pete, who was five feet apart, too much in pain to muster the courage to ask for a picture of us getting inked together. I felt like a teen stalker out of a neo-noir psychological horror film, watching intently from the closet. I left without saying a word and kicked myself the week after. But trust me when I say this, for those three hours, I was in–nay, I was a Fall Out Boy song. (“I Spent Three Hours With Pete Wentz And All I Got Was This Stupid Anecdote.”)

“Our Lawyer Made Us Change the Name of This Song So We Wouldn’t Get Sued”

Profound Genius annotation: It’s early evening and the anxiousness that comes from the desire to go out and go wild is building up. Growing up is tough, and fame only makes it harder, ask Justin Bieber. Being reckless may have adverse consequences, explaining why you should have put this record down in the first place. (Someone is not a role model!) You know what they say about anticipation though!

Best lyric: “It’s just past 8 and I’m feeling young and reckless/ The ribbon on my wrist says, ‘Do not open before Christmas.’”

Gauraa: Fall Out Boy’s pop-culture references are not what drew me to them–that was a job reserved by the candied hooks and catchy refrains–but are almost entirely responsible for making the experience of revisiting the songs years later bracing. I feel like they’re the guys who took High Fidelity a little too seriously but also watched Grease 2 in secrecy. But then again, so are we. And I think those underlying, semi-closeted pretensions are what bind me to their songs. This particular smugly titled song was originally called “My Name Is David Ruffin And These Are The Temptations.” They intended to allude to the time David Ruffin got a little too big for his boots and tried to change The Temptations’ name to “David Ruffin and The Temptations.” (ICYMI his plan eventually backfired and got him kicked out of the group.) I think it’s amusingly bold for a band of their stature in 2005 (“only good ‘cause you can have almost famous friends”) to kick off their sophomore album with a track this obnoxiously self-aware? Like, here they are, somewhat ironically voicing their aggrandized ambitions with a hint of suspicion. Mourning fame and fortune before even making the big time.  

Reina: It is kind of weird how self-aware they are, but at the same time, I feel like this is a recurring theme with a lot of bands during this era. (See: “I Just Wanna Live” by Good Charlotte) Social commentary and irony rolled up into a catchy and slightly edgy musical number? I’m not sure why that is, but maybe it’s the sense of humor that pop punks have?

Gauraa: I feel like a lot of pop punks secretly want to be rap artists but grapple with significantly lower self-esteem.

Reina: This is just a random observation, but doesn’t the intro to this song sound just like the guitar that comes in at the beginning of “Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy”?

Gauraa: Ugh, yes, 100%. “Grand Theft Autumn,” another great track. I suppose it’s acceptable to sneak in “motifs” here and there from your previous works.

Reina: Do you think we can make wearing “Do not open before Christmas” ribbons on our wrists this fall’s trendy new accessory? I mean, Fall Out Boy is “only good for the latest trends.”

Gauraa: Wait, that “ribbon on my wrist says do not open before Christmas” line was a reference to cutting, was it not?

Reina: WHAT. NO. If that’s true my whole childhood is tainted and my worldview will be significantly altered. Don’t let it be true, Pete!

Gauraa: You could always count on Fall Out Boy  to treat pathos as a sick joke. And for that, we loved them.

“Of All the Gin Joints in All the World”

Profound Genius annotation: The title references a quote by American actor Humphrey Bogart in the classic film Casablanca.

Best lyric: “We’re making out inside crashed cars/ We’re sleeping through all our memories”

Gauraa: “And oh, the way your makeup stains my pillowcase/ Like I’ll never be the same” is a perfect line. Simple. Evocative. Devastating. A romantic gesture overruled by teenage neurosis, tragically perceived creepy.  A line like “I used to waste my time dreaming of being alive/ Now I only waste it dreaming of you” only adds to its stalker-y allure. It’s sad because we know where it’s coming from: reciprocated love turned burgeoning obsession. And Patrick Stump’s vocals are so hysterical in their phrasing that it’s impossible to question the authenticity of the narrative. It completely crushes me. Every. Single. Time. Great lyrics, great hooks, great song, though maybe a little more “Of All The Myspace Pages In All of Cyberspace, She Stumbles Upon Mine” a little less “Of All The Gin Joints In All The World, She Walks Into Mine.” Sometimes I wonder whether this quote was sourced from Terry and Dan’s banter in Ocean’s Eleven rather than the Casablanca itself. But Fall Out Boy were always incredibly up to snuff with their pop-culture references. Either way, play it, Sam.

Reina:  God, I think this was one of the songs that made me fall in love with Patrick Stump’s voice. Even now, his voice rings through my entire being whenever I listen to this album (and also Folie à Deux because damn, his voice sounds good on that too.)  I love the melody during that line too. There are so many good one-liners in this album. “I used to waste my time dreaming of being alive/Now I only waste it dreaming of you,” is a freaking cute line. It’s saying, you brought me back to life, without actually saying that.

Gauraa: It is cute. Undoubtedly, dangerously cute. Even years later, that beginning “oh oh” sequence gets me. It’s hard to describe the feeling Fall Out Boy songs have on me, except that every time I sing them I feel like I’m fourteen again, customizing my emotions for the track-list.

Reina: Whenever I have a crush on someone, I listen to Fall Out Boy because it reminds me of my first real serious crush the summer after 5th grade. It also reminds me of the days when I didn’t have anything to worry about except for my mom yelling at me for watching too much MTV. And the worst thing in the world was turning on the TV as the music video for “Sugar We’re Going Down” was ending.

“Dance, Dance”

Profound Genius annotation: “Dance, Dance” details a teenager’s obsession with a particular girl and his desperation to do anything to sleep with her. It follows his obsession from his awkward initial attraction to a chance meeting with her at a school dance wherein he presumably gets to dance with her.

Best lyric: “She says she’s no good with words but I’m worse/ Barely stuttered out/ A joke of a romantic stuck to my tongue/ And weighed down with words too overdramatic/ Tonight it’s ‘It can’t get much worse’ vs. ‘No one should ever feel like’”

Gauraa: Hey! Remember the time you opened your teenage bedroom window and looked down to see “Homecoming?” etched by the burning grass on your parent’s backyard?

Reina: Jesus, so many iconic things happening in this music video. Patrick Stump’s sideburns, Pete Wentz licking a bass, “One night could change it all”, Pete Wentz dancing, Pete Wentz shimmying/seizuring. Too many moments to count ‘em all!

Gauraa: It’s true. Pete Wentz’ literal bass lick was his go-to move, his moonwalk. Also, you don’t appreciate the phrasing of Fall Out Boy lyrics until you try to memorize all the lyrics to “Dance, Dance” at age fourteen. Do you remember how wild it felt to sing along to “Why don’t you show me a little bit of spine/ You’ve been saving for his mattress”?

Reina: Obsessed with that part where he sings “love” and draws a heart in the air. I’m not ashamed that I looked a little too hard for this gif. But you’re right, this phrasing is incredibly unpredictable. Try saying “Barely stuttered out/A joke of a romantic stuck to my tongue” in Patrick Stump’s phrasing, ten times fast.

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Gauraa: It’s kind of strange but I never noticed how teenage obsession was kind of a recurring theme in Fall Out Boy songs?

Reina: Hmm, I don’t necessarily think their songs are about teenage obsession? I feel like it’s more about really liking someone who either doesn’t know who you are, or used to know you and now couldn’t care less about you, which can happen at any age. But, also here’s something kind of weird to think about: Pete Wentz is about 5 years older than Patrick Stump, which makes them around 26 and 21 when this song came out. Which is like a junior in college and a guy who’s been out of college for 3 years hanging out, singing songs about the kind of love they had in high school, which is… cool I guess?

Gauraa: I don’t know, there are a lot of boyfriend-in-the-closet scenarios on this album, as well as on the one before it. And while most of their earlier songs are wrapped up in high-school-esque narratives, it’s not the explicit references to “sleeping on your folks’ porch” that give it away for me; it’s the element of depravity, vulnerability and despairing hopelessness that strike me as quintessentially adolescent emotions. That said, they do sing/ write songs that relate to teen relationships and allude pretty frequently to the Brat Pack. But with that, I feel as though they were trying to recreate the sentiments of the films they cherished (Sixteen Candles, Dirty Dancing, Say Anything) rather than making a conscious effort to write songs specifically to appeal to the high school demographic.  

Reina: But I guess the fact that we’re still able to relate to these songs at our age is a testament to the fact that their songs aren’t targeted to any demographic or written specifically for any one age group. And again, I agree that these are adolescent emotions, but adults have the same emotions, albeit their own versions of them, but it’s kind of the same thing, isn’t it? Also, I think boyfriends in the closet can happen at any age. Or maybe that only happens if you’re R. Kelly? I’m not entirely sure. Anyway, there is an element to a lot of pop punk bands that I want to call “Peter Pan syndrome,” not in the sense of social immaturity, but in the sense that they are reluctant to grow up, I guess. You know what I mean?  

Gauraa: I’m not sure but I think Freud would concur.

“Sugar, We’re Goin Down”

Profound Genius annotation: (Some people put a notch in their bedpost every time they sleep with a new person.) He sings this to show her that, well, two can play that game. He may be just another guy she’s slept with, but she’s just a line in a song, nothing more. However, a line in a song is far more meaningful than a notch in a bedpost. Including a reference to a person in a song immortalizes something about them, while a notch in a bedpost reduces them to a number. This lyric shows our human vulnerability and how defensive we get at times.

Best lyric: “I’m just a notch in your bedpost, but you’re just a line in a song”

Gauraa: If you type “sugar we’re going down” into your Google search bar, one of the first things that pops up is a Yahoo Answers forum: “What does it mean to have a ‘loaded god complex’?

Reina: Well, our friend in the Genius annotations has given us an explanation that was more than I bargained for, so check that out if you want an answer that goes above and beyond the call of duty.

Gauraa: It’s funny because in “Sophomore Slump” (see: below) they hope that someone will steal lines from their songs. And I think that’s what happened with this one in particular. There are just so many good snippets here to steal: “I’ll be your number one with a bullet/ A loaded God complex, cock it and pull it,”  “I’m just a notch in your bedpost, but you’re just a line in a song.” Not to mention Pete’s iconic lick-lick-salute, immortalized in the gif below:

sugar-were-going-down

Reina: I can remember the first time I saw this video so clearly. From the first scene where antlers appear on the screen, they had me hooked! And, well, the rest is history. Also, I think it’s good for me to point out that I used to own the exact same camouflage cargo pants that the mean little boy in the video is wearing.

Gauraa: Look at you, always on trend.

“Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner”  

Profound Genius annotation: A play on the concept of jealousy. When someone is a jealous significant other, they try to keep their loved ones close by and keep them from any one else. The line is showing that he’s so jealous, that not even the jealousy itself is allowed to be around others. It’s all his.

Best lyric: “I keep my jealousy close cause it’s all mine”

Gauraa: Oy, with the references already! It’s funny, I hadn’t watched Dirty Dancing when I first listened to this song (eleven years ago!) but when I finally did, I remember thinking that I hadn’t pegged Fall Out Boy to be the Dirty Dancing types. At all. These guys were just massive film enthusiasts. I’m kind of hoping that Pete Wentz will reemerge in his 50s as a film critic. But, back to the song, and how the hand behind the pen relives a failure every day: what a fucking great line. A hopeless line, but a great one at that.

Reina: I feel like Fall Out Boy is such a special band because the way they phrase their songs always take me by surprise. Like in this song, the part where they sing “And come spit on bridges with me just to keep us warm” and “Then light a match to leave me be”, no matter how many times I hear this song, I never expect what they actually sing.

Gauraa: “Drink down that gin and kerosene/ And come spit on bridges with me/ Just to keep us warm/ Then light a match to leave me be” maybe a pronounced, bitter way to visualize burning bridges but it acidifies Patrick’s blunt-force vocalization of the line. I realize I could have switched the previous sentence around and said that Patrick’s vocalizations “soften the blow” but, no, I think their songs are sharpened lyrically for impact. If you notice, a number of their phrasings elongate the vowels to the extent words could easily be mistaken for other words so what hits you first is the hook. And once you listen to the song a number of times, that’s when the lyrics bite.

Reina: Have you ever noticed how so many pop punk songs are candid about being “a big mistake” and keeping a relationship on the downlow? I wonder why that is. Pop punk boys seem to love so fiercely, and yet they’re self-aware of the fact that they’re trouble, and maybe girls wouldn’t want to be seen with them? It seems like a common movie/TV trope that has come to life through emo music.

Gauraa: Do you have the All American Rejects’ “Dirty Little Secret” in mind when you say that? Or Hinder’s “Lips of An Angel”? Both fantastic songs. However, I don’t think songs about being “a big mistake” or keeping a relationship secret are anything new.  Think Stevie Wonder’s “Part Time Lover” or Billy Paul’s “Me and Mr. Jones.” Or, more recently, Imogen Heap’s “The Walk,” One Direction’s “Perfect” or Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” or, really, virtually anything by Lana del Rey. Who hasn’t had pity sex? Who hasn’t been with someone they regret? What I will say is that The Mistake is oft glamorized by music (with aid from the production department of course), which makes neglecting the consequences seem provocative. When Taylor Swift says “loving him was like driving a new Maserati down a dead-end road,” you are presented with an extravagance, a romanticized self-destruction, which makes you think, in the words of All Time Low, it’s “so wrong it’s right.” That said, pop punk boys, or at least the pop punk boys we’re talking about, are notorious for their sensitivity. Fall Out Boy, in particular, tend to adapt the demeanor and unprivileged sexuality of a non-athletic teenaged boy in their songs, so that also feeds into lines like, “Can I lay in your bed all day?/ I’ll be your best kept secret and your biggest mistake.” It’s sad to think about but almost all mentions of sex in Fall Out Boy songs are mentions of pity sex.

Reina: The boys that write these songs often seem to be so down on themselves, you know? They always seem to be shutting it down before it even starts by saying, “I’m no good for you,” “getting with me is a big mistake,” “you’re too good for me.” I’m sure it stems from sensitivity, but it’s like, god, can you have a little more confidence? Some boys tell girls to stay away from them because they’ll just  break your heart, and some boys tell girls to stay away from them because they’re afraid their hearts will get broken, I guess? I don’t know what I’m trying to say anymore but 10/10 would date a pop punk boy despite how insecure they are.

Gauraa: Ah, the cardinal sin: choosing both love and sympathy.

“I’ve Got a Dark Alley and a Bad Idea That Says You Should Shut Your Mouth (Summer Song)”

Profound Genius annotation: He’s hoping that the girl is so desperate that she’ll go for him.

Best lyric: “I’m hopelessly hopeful, that you’re just hopeless enough”

Gauraa: Probably the most solipsistic Fall Out Boy song there is. Depression hangs thick in the air, and with a first line like “Joke me something awful just like kisses on the necks of ‘best friends’,” we are made cruelly, hopelessly aware of said Bad Idea. On one hand, we had songs like Good Charlotte’s “Hold On,” which begged kids to reconsider and pull through their depression and on the other we had Fall Out Boy’s “I’ve Got a Dark Alley and a Bad Idea That Says You Should Shut Your Mouth,” morbidly subtitled “Summer Song,” to depict the insular persecutions of “kids who felt like dead ends.” I want to say the two share the same purpose, which is to empathize, but this song is so overwhelmed by itself that it’s just trying to make it through for its own sake. The dead end kids of “I’ve Got a Dark Alley” don’t seem to be literal kids, but rather re-emerging frustrations and sentiments from childhood. The same can be said of the high school nature of their narratives at large.

Reina: Fuck. This song kills me every time. “We can fake it for the airwaves/Force our smiles, baby, half dead/From comparing myself to everyone else around me.” If you can’t relate to that, then I don’t know what to tell you except that you probably don’t have a heart. I didn’t start to appreciate this song until I was in high school, and knew what it was like to feel sad and not good enough. I don’t know what it is about growing up, but somewhere between 12 and 15, I learned to compare myself to everyone else, and it did nothing but make me really fucking unhappy.

Gauraa: We keep our internet jealousies close because they’re all ours.

Reina: Fall Out Boy somehow managed to make a summery, yet sad song about insecurity and shortcomings and failed love. How do they do it?

Gauraa: You consider this summery?

Reina: Yeah, the acoustic guitar in the intro is kind of summery isn’t it? Well, maybe I only used the word summery because of the title of the song. What I should have said is that based on the intro to the song, you would not expect such a sad song to follow.

Gauraa: I see what you mean. Sometimes I feel like they went a little overboard with their title-related smartassery.

“7 Minutes in Heaven (Atavan Halen)”  

Profound Genius annotation: In February, 2005, Fall Out Boy bass player and primary lyricist Pete Wentz tried to kill himself by overdosing on the anti-depressant Atavan, which explains the subtitle “Atavan Halen.” The phrase is also a play on “Van Halen, which is fitting, as the song’s opening guitar riff’s shares similarity with the Van Halen style.

Best lyric: “I’m sitting out dances on the wall/ Trying to forget everything that isn’t you”

Reina: I kind of want to talk about how bands like Fall Out Boy or Motion City Soundtrack address mental illness and medication. I can’t tell if it’s problematic or not, since there’s a good chance that the people writing the songs have actually had first hand experience with depression or anxiety. But with lines like, “I’m having another episode/I just need a stronger dose” I’m sure a lot of people can relate to and resonate with this line, but there are probably also a handful of people who hear stuff like this in songs and romanticize or almost glorify mental illness in their minds, don’t you think? Like that whole sad gurl/sad boi Tumblr aesthetic, I’m not sure if it’s an act or rooted in real life.

Gauraa: Ah, the Werther effect of Fall Out Boy. As legend goes, Pete Wentz wrote this song after a failed suicide attempt. I mean, it’s one thing to live to tell the story but to pun on your poison? That takes a different kind of sense of humor altogether. The same goes for the likes of Motion City Soundtrack’s Justin Pierre. I don’t think it’s problematic to write about mental illness or medication at all; it’s often liberating and consolatory for both parties. But, then again, contagion is a funny thing and the media blamed Kurt Cobain for 30, 574 copycat suicides. I think a lot more is at play there: social learning, pre-existing psychosis. Existentialism? Perhaps listening to a song or reading a book about illness is just the tipping point for some. When you mention the Tumblr sad gurl/sad boi effect, what comes to mind are the copycat @sosadtoday accounts abundant on the interwebs, the garrulous extroverted “introverts” huddled together in an elite circle at a party. Essentially the “it’s chill 2 b sad” R&Brie crowd? I’m not sure whether exposure to Fall Out Boy or bands like them necessarily spurned a generation of pseudo-hipsters. However, do people willingly torture themselves for the sake of poetry? Yes. Does the music they listen to play a part in it? Sure. Like anything else, songs can lead you astray. No one is exempt. We seek to find beauty in sadness every day, in literature, in music, in film. Fall Out Boy know this, too: “this is the way they’d love/ If they knew how misery loved me.” In fact, on bonus track “Music or Misery” they steal a line from High Fidelity and question which came first, the music or the misery.  It’s a chicken/egg scenario but I truly hope nobody listens to songs that demonize mental sickness and aspire to get sick just so they can write poetry (film vlogs?) about it. That’s like sticking your head in the oven after reading The Bell Jar. Extreme. And extremely unnecessary.

Reina: You clearly didn’t spend as much time on Tumblr as I did because, damn, some people on there completely romanticize mental illness and self-harm and it’s terrifying. The only reason I bring it up is because so many of these people I would see on Tumblr were fans of bands like Fall Out Boy, and fantasized about getting their hearts broken by Pete Wentz. I don’t know, really.

Gauraa: I’m glad I didn’t spend as much time on Tumblr because while I am somewhat able to empathize with those who fall victim to drug faddism, the fetishization of illness is beyond me. In fact, the fetishization of illness might be an indicator of illness itself.

Reina: Mental illness talk aside though, this song is so perfectly edgy and catchy, it’s like a model pop punk song. The intro to this sounds like something that I can’t put my finger on. I want to say it’s an All Time Low song (that probably ripped off this song), but I can’t think of which one.

Gauraa: Heavy sigh. Everything is copy.

“Sophomore Slump or Comeback of the Year”

Profound Genius annotation: “Sophomore Slump or Comeback of the Year” is a self-referential title that alludes to the general expectation that an artist’s second album is usually among the worst (especially after a successful debut).

Best lyric: “We’re well read and poised/ We’re the best boys/ We’re the chemists who’ve found the formula/ To make your heart swell and burst/ No matter what they say, don’t believe a word”

Reina: Going back to the mental illness point I made, “We’re the therapists pumping through your speakers/Delivering just what you need.” I mean, this sentiment is nice, because so many of the AP Podcast episodes I listened to in high school have artists talking about how fans have told them stories of how certain songs saved their lives or helped them work through problems. On that note, I don’t know how to feel about this song and the fact that they’re saying they’ll “keep singing this lie.”

Gauraa: Well, the title says it all here doesn’t it? The song basically vacillates between self-deprecation and self-aggrandizement: will From Under the Cork Tree be the ever-so-fateful sophomore slump? Or will it be a comeback? In the first verse they try to sell themselves (“we’re the best boys”) but only to come back and circle their self-validation with doubt. They try to be bullish but Fall Out Boy, as we know, are reluctant optimists. Here, it’s still 2005 and it will take a few more years for them to alter their perspective.

“Champagne for My Real Friends, Real Pain for My Sham Friends”  

Profound Genius annotation: The title is a quote commonly attributed to singer-songwriter Tom Waits.

Best lyric: “Strike us like matches, cause everyone deserves the flames/ We only do it for the scars and stories, not the fame”

Gauraa: This title is a quote. By Tom Waits. Were Fall Out Boy the most cultured pop-punk band of our time? Did Amy Sherman-Palladino write for them? Did they spend all their time watching nothing but rockumentaries and films by Ted Hughes? I want answers!

Reina: I would listen to a podcast that’s basically pop culture happy hour, but hosted by Fall Out Boy.

Gauraa: Omg yes count me in. Well, coming back to the portrayal of sex in Fall Out Boy songs, once again, we’re left to grapple with a woeful line like, “I’m just the covers on top of your bed…I keep you warm and won’t ask you/ Where you’ve been.” Friends with benefits–what a cruel, joke of a term to signify anything but. Then, the fatalist attitude that rationalizes the situation: “Strike us like matches, cause everyone deserves the flames.”

Reina: Fall Out Boy has always been such a verbose and yet apt band. They are the wordsmiths of the pop punk genre, with lines like “The sounds of this small town make my ears hurt,” which is a sentiment that so many share, but put in a way that so few are able to express. It’s like an indirect and unique way to say you want to get out of this small town, without actually saying you want to get out. It’s the kind of “show, don’t tell” writing that my teachers in high school would have appreciated.

Gauraa: I know what you mean, and this might be a little off-topic since Fall Out Boy aren’t the type to dwell on suburban small town yadda yadda,  but I have to say, what is it about pop-punk bands and leaving their hometowns? It’s this unloaded Springsteen complex (since Springsteen actually left Jersey and realized he could never truly leave it). I wonder if they’re aware that maybe it’s not their town that is the problem?

Reina: They’re always talking about leaving their hometowns, and yet despite how much they hate it and the people in it, they seem to have a serious sense of pride about where they’re from. Isn’t that weird? It’s like it’s only ok for them to say their hometown sucks. God, I love pop punk.

Gauraa: Cue collaborative thinkpiece relating pop-punk to migrant identity.

“I Slept with Someone in Fall Out Boy and All I Got Was This Stupid Song Written About Me”

Profound Genius annotation: “I Slept With Someone in Fall Out Boy and All I Got was This Stupid Song Written About Me” is a prime example of Fall Out Boy’s preference for long song titles.

Best lyric: “Someone old/ No one new/ Feeling borrowed/ Always blue”

Gauraa: “The cure to growing older” is dying young? Well, there’s a Nancy Spungen-esque thought.

Reina: I always forget how heavy this song is compared to all the other songs. I mean, they’re screaming at some points in this song. It’s very… The Used. “I’m sorry my conscience called in sick again” is the excuse I want to use whenever I do something shitty. Do you think it would work?

Gauraa: I’m having serious déjà vu, Reina, it’s wild. But yes, I think it’ll work as long as you add “I’ve got arrogance down to a science” as a postscript. This song, by the way, drips ennui, mourning our generation, its hypocrisy, tendency to isolate and hold on to ten cent societal #goals. But apart from all that, and Pete’s scream-growl (um), there’s a rather sketchy subplot involved: “I’m sending your fingernails and empty bottles you’ve sipped/ Back to your family cause I know you will be missed.” Is he about to (figuratively?) kill her because “the cure to growing older” is to die young?

Reina: Oh my god. I’ve never thought of it that way. How spooky. I always thought it was like, maybe she went away to college or moved out or something and he’s sending her stuff to them because they’ll be able to appreciate it because they love her… or something like that. But the more I think about it, keeping her fingernails and empty bottles is creepy as hell. What even. But all spookiness aside, “Someone old/No one new/Feeling borrowed/Always blue.” What a clever line.

Gauraa: The most aggressively attitudinized bridal rhyme in the history of the genre, easy.

“A Little Less Sixteen Candles, a Little More ‘Touch Me’”  

Profound Genius annotation: The title of this song was originally “A Little Less Molly Ringwald, A Little More Samantha Fox.” Molly Ringwald is an actress who was in a movie called Sixteen Candles, in which she plays a quiet, awkward girl. Samantha Fox was a pop singer who had a sang called “Touch Me,” and is a confident, glamourous, sexy woman. John Cusack starred in Sixteen Candles, which hearkens back to the first song they ever released Honorable Mention: “I could be your John Cusack”

Best lyric: “You’re just the girl all the boys want to dance with/ And I’m just the boy who’s had too many chances”

Reina: I remember us singing this song at the top of our lungs in the pouring rain on the way back to your dorm on The Mount from the corner store with the Indian guys who would never ask for our IDs.  I couldn’t get the lyrics right because I was on a friend high and it came out something like, “sleeping on your parent’s floor again,” which makes sense in the context, but definitely wasn’t fooling anyone, especially you. And you 1000% called me out on it. I still remember this today because I’m still embarrassed about getting those lyrics wrong. But all embarrassments aside, I don’t think I’ll ever get over how good this song is.

Gauraa: Correcting Fall Out Boy lyrics a la Patrick Stump’s love letter correction on “Music Or Misery.” I’m sorry, but if you don’t blame me for being me, I won’t blame you for hating it.

Reina: Ever since I first heard this song, I’ve aspired to be “the girl all the boys want to dance with”, but who’s to say whether I’ll ever be that girl.

Gauraa: I love that you say this so shortly after commenting “I’m sure it stems from sensitivity, but it’s like, god, can you have a little more confidence?” It elucidates are relationship with pop-punk perfectly. PS: ever since I first heard this song, I’ve aspired to “set my clocks early ‘cause I know I’m always late.”

“Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying (Do Your Part to Save the Scene and Stop Going to Shows)”

Profound Genius annotation: “Get busy living or get busy dying” is a quote from Stephen King’s short story “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” but more widely known from the movie adaptation—simply titled The Shawshank Redemption.

Best lyric: “He said why put a new address/On the same old loneliness”

Gauraa: The line, “this has been said so many times that I’m not sure if it matters” is repeated a total of six times in the duration of this 3:31 minute song so now you just know they call it semantic satiation for a reason.

Reina: Obsessed with the way he says “matters” in this song.

Gauraa: Whenever I try to sing along to this song, I picture myself as Miranda Sings screwing up those inflections.

Reina: I don’t know why it bothers me so much, but I hate that section where they’re kind of sing-talking in screamo voices. And also the speech at the end… no comment. I can’t take it seriously.

Gauraa: What! You mean to say, “I used to obsess over living/ Now I only obsess over you/ Tell me you’d like boys like me better/ In the dark lying on top of you” doesn’t do it for you? Gasp! But, on the bright side, a couplet from the monologue toward the end could very well apply to pop-punk bands and their hometown angst: “…Why put a new address/ On the same old loneliness.” You see? But yeah, okay, easily the worst song on this album.

“XO”

Profound Genius annotation: The song also touches on Biblical morality – a subject that is occasionally visited by the band. The speaker notices a Gideon Bible placed in the hotel drawer and briefly questions his actions before ignoring an object that would “never call [him] when [he’s] down.” This emphasizes the speaker’s apathetic worldview.

Best lyric: “To the ‘love,’ I left my conscience pressed/ Between the pages of the Bible in the drawer”

Reina: This song is very….MCR isn’t it? I guess all of these different types of songs show that they can switch up their sound and they’ve got versatility, but I don’t necessarily like this sound for FOB. Nor do I like the sound that’s more screamo. Patrick Stump’s got such a nice voice, that it’s almost a shame to not take advantage of it.

Gauraa: Yes! Everything from the whispery intro to the drums screams My Chemical Romance circa Three Cheers. Patrick’s voice and Pete’s lyrics are the perfect dichotomy, especially on this song, which doles out advice like it’s Sunday: “Put your ear to the speaker/ And choose love or sympathy/But never both.” There’s so much vitriol ensconced in the Fall Out Boy one-night-stand that it leaves you wondering what has been displaced.

“Music or the Misery”

Profound Genius annotation: “The Music or the Misery” is a bonus track featured on a special edition of the album. Patrick Stump confirmed via Twitter that in retrospect, he wishes this song had been on the original album instead of “I’ve Got a Dark Alley and a Bad Idea That Says You Should Shut Your Mouth (Summer Song)” and “Champagne for My Real Friends, Real Pain for My Sham Friends.”

Best lyric: “I got your love letters, corrected the grammar and sent them back/ It’s true romance is dead, I shot it in the chest then in the head”

Gauraa: You would be wrong to think this album would’ve been complete without a High Fidelity-inspired song title. Alas, the ultimate question: which came first, the music or the misery?

Reina: In the case of the Tumblr girls, I want to say the music, but in the case of Fall Out Boy, I want to say the misery. God, Patrick’s voice sounds so pop punk here, if you know what I mean.

Gauraa: 100%. Not entirely sure if I would substitute “Music or Misery” for “I’ve Got A Dark Alley” but I’d easily trade it in for “Get Busy Living Or Get Busy Dying.” This is one of my all-time favorite Fall Out Boy tracks. It’s catchy, it cuts to the chase, and there are SO MANY hidden gems here. Exhibit A: “I got your love letters, corrected the grammar and sent them back/ It’s true romance is dead, I shot it in the chest then in the head.” Exhibit B: “I’m casually obsessed and I’ve forgiven death/ I am indifferent, yet (I am a total wreck)/ I’m every cliche, but I simply do it best.” Exhibit C: “I went to sleep a poet, and I woke up a fraud.”

Reina: I can so imagine you correcting the grammar on love letters with a colored fountain pen. If you ever send back one of my letters with grammar corrections, I would say “touché” in my head, but then probably end our friendship and send all of your stuff to your parents because “I know you will be missed.”  

Gauraa: Duly noted. You should probably throw in some fingernails and empty 4 Loko cans I’ve sipped, for good measure. I’ll find a safe place and brace myself.

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Reina and Gauraa did not expect for it to be such an emotional Friday night. They insist they need to be alone now . You can find them here next Friday, getting excessively sentimental over Katy Perry’s One of The Boys.

October 21, 2016

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Sympathizer Staff This was a group project.


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