Punk & Hardcore

Fall Out Boy Is Releasing a Punk Album: Here's Why It's Legit

Punk has always been made to be atypical in both approach and presentation. In 2013, however, few would expect Fall Out Boy, the once-TRL darling pop-punk five-piece, and Ryan Adams, one of the most genre-crossing musicians of our generation, to come together to release a hardcore, punk EP. In this case, the presentation, approach, and the collaboration is anything but expected.

As if made in a completely hasty, indirect response to the vitriol spread by once-loyal fans (myself included), "Love, Sex, Death" is the perfect foil to Save Rock and Roll--it's the actual rock 'n' roll that needs to be saved. Given their radio success with mega-hit "My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light 'Em Up)," Fall Out Boy's upcoming PAX AM Days is the unlikely, belated harbinger of the same message they set out to spread.

It's hard to determine who to chalk this reinvigorated reincarnation of the band to. Adams, always a prolific eccentric, is no stranger to the hard stuff, writing black metal under the side-project Werewolph and releasing 2010's space-odyssey thrash concept album Orion. But while Adams as known in the mainstream scope as the voice behind "that 'Wonderwall' cover" and the uncannily-timed video for 2001's "New York, New York," he's made significant ventures into hardcore and punk with The Finger, formed in 2002 with Heart Attack's Jesse Malin.

We Are Fuck You, The Finger's debut release, has a track listing that reads like a cartoonish depiction of punk rock, but the songs hold serious weight -- production is stripped down, low-end heavy, with Malin's vocals mixed down in the distortion.

Even in 2003, the heyday of Warped Tour, MTV-ready acts viewed by homogenized mall-culture kids as "punk," We Are Fuck You really did raise a middle finger to the year just after Good Charlotte's breakout and just before Green Day's American Idiot. Consequently, The Finger stayed even truer to their brash stylings; no band member ever married a Simpson sister, and they never turned their record into a Broadway musical.

Fall Out Boy, on the other side of the coin, came directly from the ashes of the Chicago hardcore scene, right in the midst of growling background vocals and Thursday-esque emotional pleas.

Arma Angelus, in which Pete Wentz played bass and Joe Trohman played guitar, is the most well-known Fall Out Boy progenitor, and played to those same musical sentiments. However, it's the precursor to Arma Angelus that featured Fall Out Boy drummer Andy Hurley, Racetraitor, that's both vicious and conscious enough to make even Botch and Converge fans raise an eyebrow. Racetraitor is violent, fast, and the direct descendent of hyperpolitical straight-edge punk acts, with the addition of larynx-shredding vocals.

This isn't to forget Hurley and Trohman's more recent venture, The Damned Things, which also featured Every Time I Die's Keith Buckley and Anthrax's Rob Caggiano and Scott Ian. Despite falling into the "supergroup" category, releasing 2010's Ironiclast, and making both the festival and European tour rounds, The Damned Things were vastly underrated and seemed to come musically closer to being this generation's Thin Lizzy more than any other act.

When PAX AM Days drops on Oct. 15, kids who are most familiar with Fall Out Boy's theatrical era and the fumbling Folie á Deux should embrace it whole-heartedly as not just another a facet of the Save Rock and Roll repressings, but rather as a nod to both the producer and band's heydays. They're not wildly misappropriating punk culture, á la the wildfire-inciting Urban Outfitters jacket this week, but are rather paying homage to the acts that they came from, both in direct lineage and in musical history. If there's anyone who's graced Billboard's top spot this year and also knows anything about saving rock and roll at the moment, it's these guys -- and it's this record.

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K.C. Libman
Contact: K.C. Libman