10+ Years Later: Looking back at Fall Out Boy’s debut – Take This To Your Grave

Recently, I was discussing pop-punk of the early 2000s with a friend.  As we reminisced about angsty masterpieces like Saves the Day Through Being Cool and Say Anything’s …is a real boy, our conversation shifted to Fall Out Boy.  Yeah, that band. Many people forget their modest beginnings and an excellent 2003 debut called Take This To Your Grave

My first experience of Fall Out Boy when they opened for Allister at The Continental in New York City’s East Village in March 2003 (Don’t Look Down was also on the bill). For those who aren’t familiar with The Continental, it is a dive bar on Sixth Avenue that, at one time, hosted bands.  Now they are known for having very cheap shot specials. I once witnessed a bevy of nefarious activities in their sub-terrain bathrooms.

After seeing Fall Out Boy that evening, I bought Take This To Your Grave on the spot.   I remember being very impressed.  I was there for Allister but became excited about discovering a new favorite by accident. It was one of those cardboard cd cases. The liner notes had quite a few spelling mistakes (for example, the song “Chicago is So Two Years Ago” was labeled as “Chicago is So Two Tears Ago”). Very punk rock (for me) in 2003.

The question is: Does the current ethos surrounding Fall Out Boy (how silly their recent albums have been, personal activities of Pete Wentz, Patrick Stump’s weird online rant about how people should feel sorry for him, etc) tarnish Take This To Your Grave, an album I remember quite fondly?

Fall Out Boy formed in the Chicago-area in the early 2000s. Named after the classic Simpsons’ character, the band featured Patrick Stump (vocals/guitar), Pete Wentz (bass), Joe Trohman (guitar), and Andy Hurley (drums). They released a very punky EP called Fall Out Boy’s Evening Out with Your Girlfriend in March 2003 and really hit their stride with Take This to Your Grave (released in May 2003).

Like any good pop-punk album from the early 2000s, Take This to Your Grave included themes of friendship, missing home, exes, betrayal, and hope, all with caustic wit and bitterness.  In this album, Fall Out Boy constructed sincere and accessible songs.  They invite the listener to tap and sing along and feel the same things as the band. Its like these songs challenge you not to sing along.  Everything since then has tried too hard to be interesting.

The album opens up with “Tell Mick That He Made My List of Things to Do This Today,” a powerful jumping off point for the album. It begins with a roaring guitar intro. The lyrics are bitter and the melody is frantic.  There is no shortage of great visual imagery, specifically the image of not sparing one’s bodily fluids to extinguish someone who is engulfed in flames.

Dead on Arrival”  has one of those classic basement show/tour videos. The band members wink and giggle at the camera and there are shots of audiences singing back each word.  Lyrically, it is a whole extended metaphor but it is slightly shifty in the execution. “This is side one/ flip me over/ I know I’m not your favorite record/ the songs you grow to like never stick at first”  is one of the memorable choruses.

And then there is “Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy.”  This song starts off with talking: “Where is your boy tonight?/ I hope he is a gentleman/ Maybe he won’t find out what I know: you were the last good thing about this part of town.” Then the guitars come in.  There is a signature count-up (“1,2,3,4”). There are moments where someone yells “Yeah!” in the background. There is a pop-punk breakdown. There are the catchy lyrics. As a single, it really sets the stage for the album’s overall sound and theme.

“Saturday” was another single. The song jumps right in without warning. “These open doors were open-ended” is a lyric of hope and youthful adventure.

The best songs are on the second half of the album.  These are the songs where the band attempts more complicated things.  These are the elements that make their way to future Fall Out Boy albums. But on Take This To Your Gave, the band got it right.

“Chicago is So Two Years Ago” was always one of my favorites. The guitars were slightly grindy but the lyrics were so catchy. The direction of the song changes during the breakdown. The instruments stop for a moment and Stump sings “You want apologies? / Girl, you might hold your breath/ until your breathing stops forever, forever./ The only thing you’ll get/ is this curse on your lips:/ I hope they taste of me forever.”

“I want to hate you half as much as I hate myself” and “I wish that I was as invisible as you make me feel” (from “The Pros and Cons of Breathing”) are classic examples of how the band articulated common feelings. In “Homesick at Space Camp” addresses an inability to craft the right words at the right time and in the right place (“Tonight the headphones will deliver/ the words I can’t say“).  Another underrated track is “Calm Before the Storm” which first appeared on Fall Out Boy’s Evening Out With Your Girlfriend. This version, however, is much more refined.

I know it is hard to take Fall Out Boy seriously but Take This To Your Grave is a great pop-punk album.  At times. the lyrics are quite nonsensical but they make sense to an angst-filled teen. The vocals are so nasal (but wasn’t that the thing back then?). It is like anyone can be a lead singer. And if you ignore their subsequent work, it is quite enjoyable.

Now I am just waiting for the Take This To Your Grave anniversary tour. It has been over 10 years…


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