By Reed Fischer
By Anna Gulbrandsen
By Jeff Gage
By Stacy Schwartz
By Natalie Gallagher
By Erik Thompson
By Jeff Gage
By Loren Green
Fall Out Boy
From Under The Cork Tree
Fueled By Ramen/Island
Girls who like boys who sing songs about girls who leave boys: The boys with tears in their punk often take heat for simplemindedness, but their positively origami-esque gifts for songwriting metanarrative are often underappreciated. But word to Weezer: No longer do the insecure have to languish in obscurity and poverty. Now, the wounds are memorialized in song before they even heal. And then the songs become hits--take that.
Though they're no Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) or Jesse Lacey (Brand New) in the writing-songs-about-writing-songs department, Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz and Patrick Stump are under no illusion as to why the ladies like them. "My reputation's on the line/We can fake it for the airwaves," Stump sings on "I've Got a Dark Alley and a Bad Idea That Says You Should Shut Your Mouth." And this is his idea of a come-on. Validate him once, shame on him. Validate him twice, shame on you. (Stump does most of the singing; Wentz does all of the writing--it's unclear who the real asshole is).
On their last album, 2003's Take This to Your Grave, Fall Out Boy sounded like a brattier Taking Back Sunday, but Cork Tree, their third full-length, marks a move toward a wittier Simple Plan. This is a bigger slip than it sounds like--the music's less angular and less angry, and the lyrics, while more forthright, trade in sophomoric double entendres and simple wordplay as if a human being's capacity for humor peaks at age 17. "We're the therapists pumping through your speakers, delivering just what you need," Stump brags on "Sophomore Slump or Comeback of the Year," but it sounds sinister, like aural rape. Later, he declaims, "I'll keep singing this lie if you'll keep believing it." And indeed, this song and most of the others, while barely three minutes long, somehow feel too long by a third. They want to get all the words out, but they use up their sympathy card quick.
On a few tracks--numbers 4 and 11; I'll spare you the titles--there are some promising echoes of fey synth-poppers like Erasure, artists who really knew what it was like to be outcasts. Bitterness, boys, is something you earn, not just an angry stroke of the pen.
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