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  • The Current UMSL

‘So Much for Stardust’ Speaks of Existentialism on a Cosmic Scale

By: Lauren Johns

Pop punk Quartet Fall Out Boy has returned as the reigning “Champion” of their genre, after a 5 year hiatus. Their last album ‘Mania’ (2018) which combined electronic beats with punk rock, was the musical equivalent of shooting off fireworks in a backyard: messy, disorienting and experimental. Some of the songs sounded like a little kid playing around with a soundboard, but I’m not ashamed to say I enjoyed it.

Image pulled from Spotify

‘So Much for Stardust’ does the opposite by taking the band back to where they started nearly two decades ago. The album is reminiscent of the early 2000’s punk scene, minus the goofy hairstyles and cheesy music videos—actually scratch that, but at least the production value is better. Fall Out Boy has also returned to their original indie label: “Fueled by Ramen”, for the Stardust album.

The album serves as satire for a world far from perfect, combined with some existalist shower thoughts. Music wise, if you’re interested in hearing a rock song backed by an entire orchestra, look no further.

The first two releases, “Love from the Other Side” and “Heartbreak Feels Good”, seem like two different genres. The first track mentioned is sparkly and whimsical until the drums and guitar rush in like a massive tidal wave under a heavy storm. Headphone users beware. The second has soft synth beats that almost sound like a quickening heartbeat, as everything crescendos into a boastful chorus that speaks of dancing your troubles away. I love the clever use of the phrase “emancipate ourselves”, the day heartache loses custody over you.

In relation to influence, “The Kintsugi Kid (Ten Years)” is a bittersweet track that dives into the singer's struggles with addiction, acknowledging the chemical haze he was trapped in and being vulnerable enough to admit that he misses it. The title “Kintsugi” stems from a form of Japanese art related to mending broken pottery, according to a music blog. This leads one to believe the singer might be trying to pick up his own pieces and reassemble his identity.

To further this search for a deeper meaning, two of the tracks are monologues. Silly me, sitting through the whole thing expecting music to start playing. “The Pink Seashell” is said to be inspired by the 1994 film “Reality Bites” with Ethan Hawke. It talks about a seashell meant to contain all the answers of the universe but when it’s finally searched, it’s empty. The monologue then diverts into a spiel about enjoying the little things in life, instead of focusing on the bigger picture. The other speaking portion of the album is on the track “Baby Annihilation” which discusses something more up to interpretation. It could be Patrick’s self-criticism or a type of social commentary, you choose.

On a lighter note, if I were to classify the songs that would make great “neighbor music” (music you blast so loud in your car it becomes someone else’s music), I would choose “What a Time to be Alive”, and “Fake Out”, they are the epitome of chirping birds and sunshine. Fall Out Boy uses the same approach as Twenty one Pilots, letting overly cheery beats juxtapose dark, satirical lyrics.

“What a Time to be Alive”, sounds very similar to “September” by the band Earth Wind and Fire. “September” harps on living in the moment and reminiscing about a wonderful love. Fall Out Boy has a more apocalyptic take, where they feel they are sitting and watching the world burn, grieving for the past. These lyrics are a whirlwind, the song starting with: “sometimes you wonder if we are ever looking back at a picture of 2019 and saying that’s the way it used to be before our dreams started bursting at the seams”. Which then leads to a line about live-streaming the apocalypse and enjoying the view from a slowly sinking ship. Despite all this, blast this song on a sunny day, you won’t regret it.

“Fake Out” creates an escape route from all the catastrophe. Patrick’s voice is airy and unrestrained as he sings about trying to cut away the darkness by limiting the things that can hurt him. My favorite lyric is, “make no plans and none can be broken”. The lighter tone perfectly portrays a dream-like state, wandering around purgatory until something finally becomes clear, aka “a window to break out”.

If I were to choose an album favorite, “I am my Own Muse” deserves a standing ovation. It feels like the soundtrack to soldiers going into battle, knowing they might lose but persevering anyway. Triumphant drum beats march underneath fast paced orchestral melodies, creating a sense of restless urgency; with solemn undertones.

This album speaks to the dreamers and realists alike. Spend less time pondering over a pink seashell and more time living in the moment.


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