Fall Out Boy, They're Goin' Up

Music

October 06, 2005|By RASHOD D. OLLISON | RASHOD D. OLLISON,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

On the surface, the band seemed unlikely to catch on.

First of all, the quartet of drummer Andy Hurley, singer Patrick Stump, guitarist Joe Trohman and bassist Pete Wentz calls itself Fall Out Boy, the name of a dorky, obscure character from The Simpsons. Second, Wentz, the group's chief lyricist and figurehead, has a penchant for song titles that stretch a mile.

But the music -- fun, pop-savvy, emo-laced punk-rock -- is immediate, the musicianship impressive. Although the titles may be long, you don't easily forget a Fall Out Boy song. The current single, a mainstay on modern rock radio all summer, has a more succinct title, "Sugar, We're Goin' Down." It's taken from the Chicago band's major-label debut, the gold-selling From Under the Cork Tree. For the track's campy video, Fall Out Boy recently won an MTV Video Music Award.

This summer, the band, which plays the 9:30 Club tonight, headlined the Vans Warped Tour. In the two years since the release of its indie debut, Take This to Your Grave, Fall Out Boy has gone from playing to a room of five to playing a stadium of 5,000. And the guys, longtime friends who grew up in the well-to-do suburbs on the outskirts of Chi-Town, have recently been the latest flavor on MTV's TRL. But the sudden success hasn't shifted their focus.

"We still want to do good songs that people want to hear," says Wentz, 26, who's calling from a tour stop in Detroit. "The songs are mostly autobiographical. They don't follow any stylistic rules. I love authors like Hemingway and [Charles] Bukowski, so it's real and honest, the writing."

Cork Tree is full of in-jokes, as titles such as "Our Lawyer Made Us Change the Name of This Song So We Wouldn't Get Sued" suggest. Lyrically, the band wrestles with everyday crises of young men trying to find themselves in love and the world. The self-deprecating humor as captured in cuts such as "I Slept With Someone in Fall Out Boy and All I Got Was This Stupid Song Written About Me" (whew!) keep the album from sinking into the stuffy self-seriousness that plagues many emo-punk bands.

About the wordy song titles, Wentz says, "A lot of bands in music history have had titles that were easy for radio DJs. We wanted to have titles that were true to the songs. That sets us apart."

Another thing that sets the group apart from the youthful, tattoos-and-spiky-hair punk pack is the band's knack for tight grooves and dense hooks. The melodies, especially on the first half of the 12 songs on Cork Tree, are so sharp you can shave with them. They're not totally unlike what has been done by Green Day or Dashboard Confessional, but the melodic approach often feels unique. Because Wentz still lives with his parents when he's not on the road, writing songs in the bedroom where he grew up, he says it's easy for him to communicate the adolescent angst in the lyrics.

"The songs are more of a wave of feelings," he says. "The crowd gets a chance to see different elements of that on stage." Although careers often come and go in the youth-intense punk world, Wentz is realistic about Fall Out Boy's potential.

"The style can be limiting," he says. "But other bands like blink-182 and Green Day became major rock bands and bigger than their genres. Fall Out Boy has the potential to do that. Will we? I don't know."

Fall Out Boy is at the 9:30 Club, 815 V St. N.W. in Washington, tonight. The show is sold out.

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