Even if you're Tommy Lee, releasing pictures of your junk (intentionally or not) is never a plus in the musical credibility column.
So it's no surprise that off-stage incidents like that progressively turned Pete Wentz into much more than the bassist and lyricist for Fall Out Boy, arguably the biggest rock band to come out of (suburban) Chicago in the past decade. He became the group's focal point to such an extent that, when the chart-topping band went on hiatus in late 2009, Wentz said in an interview, “I think the world needs a little less Pete Wentz. A lot of people think Fall Out Boy is me.”
Now that the reconnected quartet has announced both a new record (“Save Rock and Roll,” out May 7) and a corresponding tour (they hit the Riviera on May 16), FOB deserves a big welcome back and a reminder that this is a really good band that makes music—not, say, the easily dismissed diary of some guy who married Ashlee Simpson.
Yes, Wentz did marry (and divorce) Jessica's little sister, which may not endear him to fans any more than the band's appearances in stuff like the atrocious comedy “Sex Drive” or much-mocked WB show “One Tree Hill.” Apparently Wentz also directed a music video for Train, which is pretty much the worst way to get people to start taking you seriously. (Insert mandatory anti-Nickelback comment here.)
None of these gripes has much to do with Fall Out Boy's records, though, which if nothing else must be recognized for singer Patrick Stump's increasingly soulful voice and his knack for writing catchy songs you don't mind getting stuck in your head. The group, whose past three albums debuted in the Billboard Top 10 and transitioned smoothly from punchy pop-punk to R&B-laced pop-rock, shouldn't be lumped in with inferior acts like Gym Class Heroes or Panic at the Disco.
I know, it's easy to want to dismiss FOB as a novelty, maybe because of the local band's many young fans (if the kids like it, it can't be good!) or because Wentz's lyrics can veer from smartly ironic to groan-worthy in the same song. Still, you should ask yourself not whether it's “cool” to like Fall Out Boy but why it should ever be uncool to think a song with a fantastic hook and terrific vocals is worth hearing.
These days, it's almost impossible to become a huge band without acquiring both a legion of die-hard fans and a boatload of passionate detractors, probably because the industry has more Justin Biebers than Foo Fighters. Yet as a longtime Fall Out Boy fan, it's hard for me to figure out why Wentz's public image so strongly mobilized people against a group whose members, it's worth saying, haven't done any of the terrible things that many other popular mainstream artists have done.
Sure, FOB embraced success by having high-profile guests (Jay-Z, Lil Wayne) on their albums and continued to deliver songs about unhappiness even after the fans and non-fans at home thought they should be living the good life. Would you rather hear tracks about how comfortable the couch is at Kanye's mansion?
In simpler terms: Fall Out Boy's last album, 2008's “Folie a Deux,” offered several of the band's best songs, and I am absolutely in favor of hearing musical evidence of how the past five years have treated them. Anyone who's been with them since the early days knows how much FOB has sung about loyalty. Regardless of what anyone thinks, I'm still on board.
Matt Pais is the RedEye music editor. firstname.lastname@example.org
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