Bang the doldrums and rat those tats, because Fall Out Boy is back with a new studio album that may be irresistible. “So Much (For) Stardust” is an eclectic collection of nostalgia and a path forward through the pain. This record is a look at why life’s so good right now.
Fall Out Boy is an alternative rock band from Chicago who are often considered founders of the early 2000 emo scene. The band consists of Patrick Stump, Pete Wentz, Andy Hurley, and Joe Trohman. Their last studio album, “Mania” (2018), was more experimental, and nothing like their typical pop-punk sound. “Mania” was a critical flop which is why fan reception to this new album and return to form has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Love From the Other Side” is an extremely strong start to a fairly strong album. It sets up the ideas of reminiscing while simultaneously moving on, which is a central theme for the album. It’s also musically one of the strongest tracks with a very clear sound that touches on the classic sound of the first few Fall Out Boy records, while also utilizing the post-hiatus change of sound they developed with their later works.
“Heaven, Iowa” is maybe one of the strangest songs off the entire album. It has a very grand, looming sound that makes it feel like the song that plays over the end credits of a film about teenagers in a dystopian world. It feels like it connects to the storylines and sound created by their most popular songs, “Centuries” from their 2014 album,“American Beauty/American Psycho,” which shares this strange narrative created by extreme beat drops and large amounts of anticipation.
“So Good Right Now” is a joyful exploration of how positive life can be. It’s a rarity for a Fall Out Boy song to focus on the positive possibilities of the future, but “So Good Right Now” does just that, and it does so in a very playful way. It’s fun and easy to enjoy, which makes it one of the most accessible Fall Out Boy songs I’ve ever heard, though it does feel misplaced on this album. Between the darker sad nostalgia of this record and the weird placement of it being between “Heaven, Iowa” and “The Pink Seashell (feat. Ethan Hawke),” “So Good Right Now” feels like a missed opportunity. I understand that it’s supposed to fill the role of looking forward instead of dreading everything that’s happened before, but it doesn’t make that entirely clear on its own and feels a little weak by itself.
The seventh track, “The Pink Seashell (feat. Ethan Hawke),” is very interesting and also highly confusing. The lyrics in this song are an excerpt from the film “Reality Bites” (1994) when Ethan Hawke’s character recalls seeing his father after he was diagnosed with cancer, and how his father gave him a pink seashell. He realized the shell is empty and that might represent the pointlessness of life. Wentz mentioned this film in an interview in 2020, and it makes the idea of the pink seashell more clear, but what isn’t clear is why this track needed to be included in the album itself. Fall Out Boy has a history of being ridiculously literal, but including the actual lines from the film is just an odd choice when the rest of the album doesn’t make any reference to seashells past this, and there was nothing stopping them from doing so if they were intent on referencing this motif.
“I Am My Own Muse,” like “Heaven, Iowa’,’ feels far more dramatic than the rest of the album, but the drama is absolutely welcomed. This song may feel extreme, but the anticipation is worth it. It feels less like a somber trip down memory lane, and more like a vengeful fight song that calls for the destruction of everything that predates it, and more specifically the destruction of the pandemic.
The twelfth song on the album, “What a Time To Be Alive,” is the needed hopeful burst of energy before the emotional kick down the stairs of the album’s ending. It counterbalances the heavy and more sober feelings of the songs it sits in between, and has an almost obnoxious upbeat sound that’s impossible not to dance along with. However, the dancing is quick to come to an end with the song that follows.
The final track, and title track, of the album, “So Much (For) Stardust,” is an absolutely amazing end for the record. It continues and finalizes the nostalgic motifs that circulate throughout the record while simultaneously looking back at the record itself. The song is almost making fun of the album’s tendency to over focus on the past, and it does so by actually referencing a line from the first song on the album. It makes for an amazing closer wrapped in self reflection and awareness of their own obstacles. It’s simply a perfect end for this album, and it makes the commitment this album feel completely worth it.
This album is only 44 minutes long, and it feels even shorter, which makes it worth at least one listen. The tracks “Fake Out,” “Flu Game,” and “The Kintsugi Kid (Ten Years)” aren’t entirely amazing, but they play so fast it almost doesn’t matter. “Heaven, Iowa” and “So Much (For) Stardust” might be two of my favorite Fall Out Boy songs ever released, and the two certainly make up for the three or so songs that are, at worst, boring. Maybe the album as a whole isn’t the band’s absolute best, but it’s far from the worst, and for a seventh studio album, that’s a difficult feat to accomplish.
In the end of it all, it’s a good record. Is it golden? No, but I don’t care, it’s covered in stardust, and that’s all it needs to be. This album had so much anticipation about what sort of direction the band would go with it, and with the heavy load it was given, it didn’t disappoint. It’s well written, at least somewhat cohesive, and very emotionally driven, which makes it feel more earnest than previous recent Fall Out Boy records. “So Much (For) Stardust” is a nostalgic love letter to moving on.
Album rating: 8.5/10