So Much (for) Stardust: FOB’s Refreshing Return

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons | Pete Wentz has been an active member of the pop punk scene since 1993.

Bunny Schaaf | Staff Writer

March 30, 2023

“So Much (for) Stardust” is a nostalgic yet refreshing return to the golden years of Fall Out Boy, released during a time when the alternative revival has a stronger pulse than ever before.

Fall Out Boy, an essential band of the pop punk era, is best exemplified by their work in early releases “Folie à Deux,” “Infinity On High” and “From Under The Cork Tree.” However, into the 2010s, the band began to fall into pop cliches with heavy synth sounds and a general departure from rock and roll inspiration, largely due to the musical culture of the time.

“We were just trying to survive,” Pete Wentz, the band’s bassist, said in an interview with Variety.

Before the band’s four year period of dormancy, they released “MANIA,” an album saturated in noise and frustration, followed by a second volume of “Believers Never Die,” a revised greatest hits compilation. It almost seemed to be a goodbye.

Between then and now, Fall Out Boy resigned with the label of their glory days – Fueled By Ramen – and reconnected with a producer from the same time, Neal Avron. While “So Much (for) Stardust” is by no means a carbon copy of the group’s original sound, it takes the growth and stylistic choices they made during their time ‘trying to survive,’ and applies that to the sentiment of their early works.

“So Much (for) Stardust,” is operatic, near-grandiose and most certainly an explosive return.

One of the most standout tracks, “Love From The Other Side” leads the record. It begins with a soft orchestral, reminiscent of iconic composers like Ralph Vaughan Williams or Leonard Bernstein.

It doesn’t take long for this instrumental to erupt into guitars and drums, and the sequence calls back to the soft introductions of tracks from “Infinity On High,” but does so with much more confidence and maturity. Within the first minute of their long-awaited return, Fall Out Boy has already resecured their glory.

Some songs, like “Hold Me Like a Grudge” and “What a Time To Be Alive,” retain the identity of “MANIA,” though they do so almost ironically. They focus on desperation and loneliness, with the lyrics certainly being more comprehensive and thoughtful than they were in the 2018 album the sounds emanate from.

The synths and electronic elements that evolved into Fall Out Boy’s music prior to this release are certainly still there. However, they’re handled masterfully rather than cluelessly. They amplify choruses, guitars and orchestrals like they hadn’t in older records.

“So Good Right Now,” “The Kintsugi Kid (Ten Years)” and “Heartbreak Feels So Good,” do the best jobs of mixing new and old sounds of pop punk and Fall Out Boy. They’re refreshing and clean. They maintain the urgency of “Folie à Deux,” the lyricism of “From Under The Cork Tree” and the stylistic choices of “MANIA.”

On the other hand, “Heaven, Iowa” and “Flu Game” exemplify most of the elements of the earlier, freshly discovered band that Fall Out Boy once was. It clearly has musical roots in the underground emo scenes of the early 2000s. These are up there with some of the best songs on the album, as Patrick Stump’s vocals and the performances of Wentz, Andy Hurley and Joe Trohman, are all much more refined and retrospective.

The most palpable tracks, and potentially best, of the record, that hopefully predict the future of Fall Out Boy’s sound, are “Love From The Other Side,” “I Am My Own Muse,” “Fake Out” and title track, “So Much (For) Stardust.”

“I Am My Own Muse” and “Fake Out” are certainly impressive, being more than just filler tracks and obviously are deliberate in their placement. They are complimented by two interludes, “Baby Annihilation” and “The Pink Seashell,” that carry their sound and the sentiments of a resurrected band.

“Love From The Other Side” and “So Much (For) Stardust” are beautiful. The lyricism is impressive and poetic, and both songs burst with euphoria with a near-perfect balance of heavy and delicate performance. While “I Am My Own Muse” and “Fake Out” carry the same sound and intention as they do, they pale in comparison. The “Love From The Other Side” and “So Much (For) Stardust” make for the perfect introduction and exposition to the album.

“We thought we had it all,” Stump sings, “So much for stardust.”

While “So Much (for) Stardust” is certainly not a perfect album, and maintains a few tracks that could be considered filler, it is objectively one of Fall Out Boy’s best releases and certainly worth the five year wait.

Each of the 13 songs is full of boldness and is suited for the band’s now-matured audience. It is certainly a record to appreciate, and thus far could contest as one of the best mainstream album releases of this year.