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‘Take This To Your Grave’: The Fall Out Boy Album That Resurrected Pop-Punk
In Depth

‘Take This To Your Grave’: The Fall Out Boy Album That Resurrected Pop-Punk

With its raw production and angsty lyrics, Fall Out Boy’s debut album, ‘Take This To Your Grave’, opened doors for countless emo bands.

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Marking a significant milestone in the evolution of pop-punk, Fall Out Boy’s 2003 debut album, Take This To Your Grave, put the group on the map as one of the most exciting alternative rock bands of the early 2000s. Often overlooked in the wake of subsequent Fall Out Boy albums such as 2005’s From Under The Cork Tree and 2007’s Infinity On High, Take This To Your Grave is best seen today as a cult classic that pioneered a mix of hardcore-punk energy with a pop-leaning sensibility.

Listen to ‘Take This To Your Grave’ here.

Paving the way for the future of rock music and setting the scene for a new wave of emo bands such as My Chemical Romance and Paramore, Take This To Your Grave would go on to have a lasting impact. Here is the story of how Fall Out Boy’s debut album kick-started the group’s own ascendancy into the mainstream and helped emo-punk become a globe-conquering cultural phenomenon.

The backstory: “Patrick would try to adapt hardcore breakdowns into a pop sensibility”

Friends Pete Wentz and Joe Trohman formed Fall Out Boy in 2001, in the Chicago suburb of Wilmette, Illinois. Despite only being in his early 20s at the time, Wentz was already a seasoned veteran who’d played with various local metalcore bands throughout the late 90s, but he had grown unhappy with the changing mores of the hardcore punk scene, which he felt had moved away from political activism towards mindless moshing. After creating Fall Out Boy as a fun and escapist pop-punk side project with Trohman, the pair enlisted 17-year-old Xgrinding processX drummer Patrick Stump as their lead vocalist, and the trio began to write songs together.

After Fall Out Boy headed to Wisconsin to record some demos with 7 Angels 7 Plagues drummer Jared Logan, Uprising Records owner Sean Muttaqi offered to release some of their songs as a split EP with fellow Chicagoans Project Rocket. Also impressed with Stump and Wentz’s burgeoning talents, Project Rocket’s drummer Andy Hurley would soon defect to Fall Out Boy, completing the group’s core line-up. “Patrick would try to adapt hardcore breakdowns or hardcore rhythmic sensibilities into a pop sensibility, to see where you could take that, which I think was really interesting,” Hurley explained to Alternative Press magazine.

With Hurley on drums, the group attempted to record a collection of songs in two days, releasing the results as the mini-album Fall Out Boy’s Evening Out With Your Girlfriend. With these early recordings already showcasing their potential, the band attracted the attention of record label Fueled By Ramen, who signed them to a unique “incubator deal” that would finance the recording and release of their debut album and help the group build their fanbase before moving over to Island Records. With a budget of $40,000 to play with, Fall Out Boy were ready to get to work.

The recording: “We were lying to our parents about what we were doing”

Before heading to the studio, Fall Out Boy held pre-production rehearsals at a warehouse, and, with Saves The Day’s 1999 album, Through Being Cool, as a touchstone, began thrashing out their newest material. As a result, when the time finally came to work with producer Sean O’Keefe at Smart Studios, in Madison, Wisconsin – the same studio in which Nirvana had recorded their game-changing 1991 album, Nevermind – the group were so well-prepared they were able to lay down seven of the album’s eventual 12 songs in just nine days. Brimming with urgency and passion, Fall Out Boy’s explosive mix of hardcore-punk energy and honed musicality gave the group a fiery edge on established pop-punk acts such as Green Day and blink-182.

With Wentz’s confessional and introspective lyrics squaring off with Patrick Stump’s powerful and emotive vocals, it was clear that Fall Out Boy were about to revolutionise pop-punk forever. By exploring themes of personal struggles, heartbreak and self-doubt, the songs that made up Take This To Your Grave captured the pent-up angst of teenage disillusionment and vented it through the sonic prism of melodic hardcore. As a result, the album delivered radio-friendly emocore with added grit.

Released in April 2003, Take This To Your Grave’s lead single, Dead On Arrival, conveyed the pain of a failed relationship and the feelings of emptiness and despair that follow, and sounded the battle cry for the group’s pop-punk coup d’état. Over catchy guitar riffs and a driving rhythm that carries the song forward, Stump recounts the woes of a dumped boyfriend as if he were a wrongfully-accused prisoner on death row (“This is side one/Flip me over/I know I’m not your favourite record/You’re just another dead man walking”).

Despite working extraordinarily quickly in the studio, making Take This To Your Grave was not without its difficulties. Producer Sean O’Keefe had paid for studio time out of his own pocket, and his perfectionist streak meant he was keen to push each member of Fall Out Boy to their limits. “We were lying to our parents about what we were doing, cutting corners,” Wentz later recalled. The band rarely had access to a shower, and, fuelled by fizzy drinks and very little food, often slept for only a few hours at a time. Despite such deprivations, Take This To Your Grave showcased their hunger and their ability to create a seamless collection of songs that bore all the hallmarks of a modern classic.

The release: “It laid the groundwork for many ‘Huh! We don’t suck!’ moments”

Fall Out Boy’s debut album, Take This To Your Grave, was released on 6 May 2003, but it took some time for the band to go from underground wunderkinder to genuine commercial prospects. The album’s second single, Grand Theft Autumn/Where Is Your Boy, once again showcased Fall Out Boy’s raucous but radio-friendly formula of teenage melodrama. Unfolding like a deleted scene from John Hughes’ teen classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Wentz’s lyrics tell the story of a boy convincing a girl to leave her inattentive boyfriend and embark on a fling with him instead (“You need him, I could be him/I could be an accident but I’m still tryin’/And that’s more than I can say for him”).

From the film-buff reference to the 1998 cult movie Rushmore on its opening song, “Tell That Mick He Just Made My List Of Things To Do Today”, to the lovestruck bellyache of jet-lag that is Homesick At Space Camp, Take This To Your Grave would, in time, prove to be an era-defining record. Arguably best exemplifying both its emo-punk style and the band’s authentic DIY ethic, the album’s third and final single, Saturday, was released in December 2003. Channelling high-school dropout woes, it remains a firm fan favourite that often closes out Fall Out Boy concerts to this day.

After embarking on a lengthy tour culminating in a performance at 2003’s South By Southwest and being added to the bill of the iconic Warped Tour the following year, Fall Out Boy graced the August 2004 cover of Alternative Press magazine and seemed uniquely poised to make a mainstream breakthrough. By this point, Take This To Your Grave had sold almost 300,000 copies and was shifting nearly 3,000 copies every week, a remarkable achievement for an independent release, and proof that the album had come to soundtrack Generation Y’s coming of age.

The legacy: “Fall Out Boy’s debut ushered in a whole new, genre-blurring scene”

Towards the end of 2008, no doubt prompted by the commercial heights Fall Out Boy had reached with their following two albums, Take This To Your Grave had sold over 600,000 copies and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association Of America. Perhaps more importantly, as has become clearer with the passing of time, the record left a lasting mark on the pop-punk genre and helped to shape the sound and – through the band’s eyeliner-wearing stage antics – the look of alternative rock in the 2000s. As Brittany Spanos wrote, in Rolling Stone magazine, “Fall Out Boy’s debut ushered in a whole new, genre-blurring scene, in which heavy riffs and a screamo aesthetic mingled with old-fashioned teen heartbreak.”

Long venerated as a cult favourite, Take This To Your Grave helped set the scene for the mainstream acceptance of emo-punk at a time when punk rock was undergoing a massive cultural shift. Acknowledging its place in Fall Out Boy’s lasting legacy, Patrick Stump admitted, in a statement to mark the album’s tenth anniversary, “It laid the groundwork for many, ‘Huh! We don’t suck!’ moments to follow on our four subsequent albums.”

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