Fall Out Boy – ‘So Much (For) Stardust’ Album Review

Photo Credit: Pamela Littky

Fall Out Boy’s newest album, So Much (For) Stardust, begins with a dramatic, repeating piano line and a luscious arrangement of strings – it sounds like the sort of thing that should kick off some epic, wildly expensive action movie. Then, the song abruptly switches gears into the sort of frenetic pop-punk that one would expect from the beloved quartet. It’s a tried and true (some would even say, trite) trick that countless pop-punk bands have tried before and that, undoubtedly, countless will go on to do. More noteworthy is that this moment is one of the only ones on the album, where the Patrick Stump and Pete Wentz-led band attempt any major surprises. Fall Out Boy may sound more energized now than they have in over a decade, but So Much (For) Stardust makes clear they’re content to coast on nostalgia. 

This opener, “Love From The Otherside” finds the band making the most out of the power of nostalgia. Fall Out Boy doesn’t pull any tricks here that they haven’t done countless times before, but the song’s charm is undeniable, and the band slickly manages to create an earworm thrashing chorus without succumbing to the heavy, over-compressed soundscape that dooms so much pop-punk revival music. Though the imagery in the song doesn’t always land – like Wentz’ “hamster wheel” and “rat race” clichés – the question at the center of the song is illuminating. An excavation of a failed relationship, “Love From The Otherside” cycles through memories as Stump asks “what would you trade the pain for?” before admitting “I’m not sure.” It’s a captivating admission of unknowing from a band whose songs often reach for easy, one-line answers. 

It’s a shame then that the band spends so much of the rest of the album flailing around looking for a compelling sound. “Hold Me Like A Grudge” tries and fails to be all things to all people – alternating between brooding synth-pop that evokes The Weeknd and the sort of raging pop-punk that evokes the band’s own work from the 2000s. In the end, it fails to do either very well. Patrick Stump desperately tries to up the song’s stakes – injecting hand claps, taking sharp, short breaths, and rushing over his words – but the song remains stubbornly hard to get invested in. It doesn’t help those such moments of self-seriousness are interrupted by clunky lines like “you put the fun in dysfunction.” By the time you get to “So Good Right Now,” which replaces meaningful lyricism with mindless, overly long repetitions of “oh, oh, oh,” there’s no doubt that the band is phoning it in. 

“Heaven, Iowa” contains some of the album’s best and worst moments – it’s a testament to what it takes for a Fall Out Boy song in 2023 to succeed, as well as being a testament to why so few of them do so on this album. In the first verse, the album reaches its quietest, most subdued moment, thus spotlighting Wentz’ lyricism. While often shaky on the rest of the album, here Wentz’ words ring as surprisingly sincere and affecting, as he offers intimate vignettes of a long night shared between a couple – laying on the floor, at 6 AM, on Mulholland Drive, sharing a bottle of screw-top wine. But, in one of the album’s most confounding moments, the song reaches for this maximalist, rock-opera-style chorus filled with oversung repetitions of “scar-crossed lovers.” The subtlety and lyrical detail that once made the song so charming, are now unceremoniously stripped away. So much of the experience of listening to So Much (For) Stardust feels confusing and frustrating in that way – the band one minute playing to their strengths in pleasing fashion and the next indulging in pointless longueurs. It may be a notch above most of the pop-punk revival albums released this decade, but it still feels destined to live in the shadow of Fall Out Boy’s better albums.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
Written by: Tom Williams

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