Onetime emo-pop figureheads Fall Out Boy return, for better or worse 

Radioactive Band

Radioactive Band

In 2003, Fall Out Boy released Take This to Your Grave, a glossy pop-punk take on the lovesick emo anthems that had consumed mainstream rock music about one year earlier. The band's debut was hailed as a smart, catchy collection of tunes that touched on a zeitgeist-y pop sensibility previously displayed by Jimmy Eat World and Dashboard Confessional.

Little did we know that it would also spell total doom for the genre's mainstream success.

Maybe that's putting it a little too harshly. Fall Out Boy, by all regards, started out as sincerely as every other emo band on the planet: a cluster of Midwestern teenagers (the feelings-est group of all the groups), inspired by the punk-tinged sensitive rock bands that bubbled in the underground over the past two decades, decided to dump their own feelings of anxiety and lovesickness into a distorted vat of power chords. The only difference with Fall Out Boy is that they, unlike thousands of other emo bands, suddenly found themselves famous. And as a result, disconnected from the scene from which they came.

The thing about genres like emo — genres built on the backs of specific subcultures and scenes — is that they tend to live and die by the whims of the people inside that scene. Country music will live on as long as whiskey and acoustic guitars exist. But what about grunge? Or riot grrrl? Or indeed, emo? These genres all kinda have the same story. Emo was born out of the hyper-masculine mosh-pit of hardcore punk — a scene that had gradually become increasingly violent as aggro mooks slowly began to catch wind of bands like Black Flag. Disenchanted by this influx of goons, artists like Guy Picciotto (Rites of Spring) innovated their way out of that sweaty, bloody scrum, splintering off into new subsections of punk rock.

Over the next two decades, the genre thrived in the underground. Bands like Sunny Day Real Estate, The Promise Ring and Jawbreaker shed the hardcore trappings in favor of contemporary-sounding indie rock and garage punk, while retaining the songs' emotional honesty. As teens latched on and formed their own bands, emo edged its way into the mainstream. It was that point that record companies began to take notice, decided to put Sunny Day Real Estate on a Batman soundtrack (Schumacher's Forever, specifically) and started scooping up radio-ready emo bands left and right.

And that's where Fall Out Boy came in. On Take This to Your Grave — originally released by indie label Fueled by Ramen — Fall Out Boy presented a shallow yet highly marketable side of emo pop, suitable for Target music departments everywhere. They became ubiquitous, an unavoidable combination of pop tropes that quickly overtook the emotional nuance that Picciotto injected into hardcore punk. At once, Fall Out Boy became the definition of emo and — like the hardcore punk goons in the '80s — alienated the subculture they sprouted from. And that's without getting into bassist Pete Wentz texting pictures of his wang to a woman (the pic in question was subsequently, and quickly, leaked onto the Internet). Oh, also, there was his disastrous, overexposed marriage to lip-sync champion Ashlee Simpson.

It was that overexposure that caused Fall Out Boy to lie low for four years, and resulted in Wentz's declaration that "the world needs a little less Pete Wentz." That's probably true. The real question is this: Are the remaining devotees to emo music prepared for a second round? Do they really need one?

Email music@nashvillescene.com.

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