Emo on the Skids
There is no better way to dismissively sum up a rock band than by labeling it ¨emo.¨ This has worked almost universally for the past six or seven years, with few exceptions. The problem arises when a few exceptions occur, as music aficionados and pop culture in general must scramble to come up with new ways to acknowledge a band´s sudden reemergence as a ¨real band¨ instead of, you know, a silly emo group for teenagers who spend far too much time lurking in Hot Topic. This year, Fall Out Boy became, with Infinity on High, ¨that emo band that´s cool to like.¨
This is probably why Fall Out Boy´s bassist and de facto face man, Pete Wentz, says of his band´s new album, ¨I wanted it to be more than about eyeliner or our haircuts.¨ After all, following up a debut like From Under the Cork Tree which propelled him and Fall Out Boy into the musical stratosphere and made them MTV darlings comes with plenty of risks. Especially for someone like Wentz, who, as the band´s sole lyricist, was largely responsible for establishing the tone of what would come next.
¨I didn´t want to rewrite the last album, especially lyric-wise,¨ he says. ¨For me, personally, over the last year there were a lot of things I was quoted as saying. Either it didn´t come out of my mouth right or I was paraphrased or I said things this way when I should´ve said them this way. This record, on a lot of songs, allowed me to respond to that.¨
Singer Patrick Stump who tends to shun the spotlight Wentz embraces admits it was a bit of chest-beating on Fall Out Boy´s part, attacking critics and copycats, but he was more focused on beating the sophomore-album curse than anything. ¨Your second album really defines a career,¨ he says. ¨You can either try to recapture the success of the first one using formulas and contrivances when, on the first one, you probably didn´t do much contriving at all... or you can realize you can be on the cover of Rolling Stone one minute and totally fall off the face of the planet the next. In 20 years, there´s a good chance the only person who´s going to be listening to your album is you.¨ He laughs at that. ¨I worried about that audience.¨
But by creating an album the band believed in, Fall Out Boy scored a commercial hit and, astonishingly, a critical one at that. ¨I was, more than anything, surprised,¨ Stump says, chuckling. ¨I had less than no expectations of ever getting a good critical review.¨
For fans, the subjects that Wentz and Stump were concerned about being rejected have proven to be a reason to cheer. The anthemic ¨This Ain´t a Scene, It´s an Arms Race¨ is just one of several songs on Infinity that take potshots at naysayers and poseurs. Wentz is first in line to admit that Fall Out Boy needs to rise above the pettiness that accompanies musical celebrity. This self-awareness is what elevates Infinity on High to ¨emo that´s cool to like,¨ even though it´s a lot more musically ambitious than most so-called rock albums. You could even say Fall Out Boy has grown up, or at least Wentz has, thereby dragging the others Stump, drummer Andy Hurley, and guitarist Joe Trohman along with him.
¨There are the obvious changes everyone would expect, but there are little changes too,¨ Wentz says, talking about the effects of Fall Out Boy´s ascendance to arena-god status. ¨A year ago, I feel I would never let myself be happy without feeling guilty about it. I think I was aware of what was going on in my life, but I wasn´t willing to take the steps to fix it. Now, I allow myself that breathing room.¨
He attributes much of this, oddly, to the media. ¨It´s weird and kind of interesting, but after reading a couple of pieces about myself, it was like looking in the mirror for the first time,¨ he says. ¨I was like, You know what, maybe you should actually make yourself feel better rather than continue in misery.´ Who you are versus who everyone else thinks you are is a kind of very interesting clash of perspectives.¨
Most would also assume Wentz dreamed of ultimately becoming a rock star like millions of other teenagers. But most would be wrong, at least when it comes to the bigger picture. Pete Wentz despite the fact that he thinks his real purpose is to play soccer (no joke) wants to rule the world. Fall Out Boy, selling out arenas, the Rolling Stone cover it´s all just a means to an end. The process is supposed to go something like this:
Step 1: Become the face of one of the biggest bands in the world. Check.
Step 2: Create a record label -- DecayDance -- that churns out more megaselling bands like Panic! At the Disco (¨A freak-of-nature story,¨ he says). Check.
Well, step 3 involves taking over the world, and that requires time.
¨I think, to me, it´s that this is a brand,¨ he says of his entrepreneurial adventures. ¨It´s a culture. We´ve taken notes from, like, older Def Jam, back when LL Cool J was there. You bought every record that came out of it. The last record was so hot, you didn´t know what the next record was going to be, but you knew you were going to buy it. Also, I think when you get to be a band of our size, corporate involvement is just a necessary evil, so I think, Why can´t you just be that corporation?´ Why do you need a middle man?¨
Wentz laughs when his plot to conquer the planet through music is revealed. ¨Yeah, there´s definitely a part of me that´s not ashamed to admit I want to be in the biggest band on the planet,¨ he says.
Stump acknowledges his bandmate´s plans for world domination. ¨We all aspire to things outside our reach,¨ he says, ¨but, I think more than anything, that´s what drives [Pete].¨
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