Retrospective Review: Take This To Your Grave
by Vasilis, contributing writer
“Light that smoke, yeah one for giving up on me/ and one just cause they’ll kill you sooner than my expectations” begins the fiery, debut album Take This To Your Grave from pop-punk-turned-pop-rock superstars Fall Out Boy. It’s hard to believe the Illinois-based band burst on to the scene over ten years ago with their powerful and cathartic brand of angst-ridden pop punk. The group came together after playing in several popular Chicago hardcore groups (including Arma Angelus, which also featured Tim McIlrath from Rise Against) and they gelled almost instantly, etching out their very identifiable sound.
Though certainly embattled over their career and perceived as “sell outs” by many, the group has nonetheless built an impressive resume with several solid albums and hit radio singles. Songs like “Sugar, We’re Going Down”, “Dance, Dance” and “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race” continue to receive consistent radio play. But by the time they released their underrated, heavily pop-driven fourth studio album, Folie a Deux, the group’s fame was starting to dwindle and it was clear the group needed a break to clear their heads and refocus. Following a show at New York’s Madison Square Garden supporting Blink-182 in which Mark Hoppus shaved off Pete Wentz’s emo haircut, the group announced an indefinite hiatus much to the dismay of diehards and the delight of their detractors.
Fast-forward four years: absolutepunk.net and Property Of Zack begin rumbling about a possible reunion, one that after many denials turns out to be true. Not only was the group back, but a new album was already recorded and a marketing plan hatched to get the group back on top. The album scored big on the charts and the singles are everywhere, proving that Fall Out Boy still has as much pop pull as they ever did. The album title, Save Rock and Roll, proved to be just as tongue-and-cheek and playful as their music has been in the past and was just catchy and strong as any of their work, proving to be a logical progression of their music and one of the better pop albums of the year.
Despite all that, Take This To Your Grave remains the group’s magnum opus in the eyes of fans. The 40-minute long pop punk masterpiece, which was released ten years ago this month, easily withstands the test of time with its soaring hooks, clever lyrics, and playfully long song titles. Album opener “Tell The Mick He Just Made My Lists of Things To Do Today” explodes out of the gate with fast, aggressive guitars and crashing drums. The lyrics are scathing, with lines like “let’s play this game/ called when you catch fire/ I wouldn’t piss to put you out. Stop burning bridges/ drive off of them/ so I can forget about you.”
Debut single “Dead On Arrival” sports a bouncy, catchy chorus that proclaims “This is side one/ flip me over/ I know I’m not your favorite record” that is just impossible not to sing along to. Singles “Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy” and “Saturday” continue the relentless attack with picture perfect execution that thrive off the Pete Wentz’s sarcastic, bitter lyrics. The album mostly deals with girls and hometown feelings, as most pop punk albums do, but it’s the way the group conveys lyrics that truly help them connect, and Patrick Stump’s soaring vocals, which sets Fall Out Boy apart from many other pop punk groups, help deliver the message in a way that Pete Wentz just could not.
The remaining eight tracks are just as sharp and relentless as the first four. Drummer Andy Hurley shines on “Homesick at Space Camp” and “Sending Postcards From a Plane Crash (Wish You Were Here)” with splashy cymbals and rumbling drums throughout that add to the infectious choruses. “Chicago is So Two Years Ago” features a well-placed guest vocal spot from Motion City Soundtrack vocalist Justin Pierre that perfectly rolls with the song’s darker guitar tones. “Reinventing the Wheel to Run Myself Over” sees the group paying homage to their hardcore roots with its short running time and lightning quick drums and guitar. The album closes with a bang with “The Patron Saint of Liars and Fakes”, where the group asks “when it all goes to hell/ will you be able to tell/ me sorry with a straight face”. The chorus, as on every other song, is memorable and sticks in your head for days. Even ten years later, the words are still as sharp and relevant as the day they first shouted them to an ever-growing, adoring audience.
The sky is truly the limit for Fall Out Boy, and always has been. With a renewed sense of purpose and a keen eye for where they want to be with their music, the group can stay around for as long as they’d like and continue to notch big hits. The hiatus was just what they needed to recharge their batteries. But even though Save Rock and Roll sees the group further distancing themselves from their pop punk roots and sounds, the comfort of their debut album’s 12 down-to-earth tracks will continue to make it the album that most Fall Out Boy fans keep returning to. And though the band decided against simply trying to cash in on the album’s fame and legacy with a ten-year anniversary tour, the group continues to show appreciation for the album that started it all with many choice cuts placed throughout their setlists.