You never forget your first love. Sure, they may leave you heartbroken and picking up the pieces of where to turn to next, but those scars cut deep. Fall Out Boy arrived on the pop-punk scene with their debut LP, called Take This To Your Grave, that featured slick hooks and sing-a-long choruses that made this band destined for superstardom. The band was technically signed to Island Records through a “first-ever incubator type of deal” that gave them money to sign a one-off record deal to put their debut out on Fueled By Ramen to grow a steady following before their major label debut. This seemed to pay off big time for both Fall Out Boy and Island Records, as the band would become one of the hottest acts around by the time From Under The Cork Tree was released. The now-iconic cover photo of the band sitting on a broken futon was actually the second choice from the label, as the initial concept of a live photo was rejected. The lyrical material is largely based around fractured relationships, falling in and out of love, and traveling, while it became a point of contention between bassist Pete Wentz and lead vocalist Patrick Stump. During the recording of the LP, Wentz and Stump argued for days on end about the direction of the lyrics, but they ultimately believe that through this conflict came something beautiful.
Fall Out Boy would steadily see success after the release of Take This To Your Grave through their relentless touring schedule and a “big break” through a vignette on MTV’s “You Hear It First,” that showcased the band’s approach to their live shows and loyal following of fans. The set would earn a Gold certification for 500,000 units sold and cement the band as one of the premiere bands to watch in the exploding pop-punk scene.
Take This To Your Grave opens with a dial tone before exploding out of the gates with a great, layered guitar riff courtesy of Joe Trohman and Patrick Stump. The chorus in the first track, “Tell That Mick He Just Made My List Of Things To Do Today” finds the band tackling a broken relationship as Stump sings, “Let’s play this game, called “when you catch fire / I wouldn’t piss to put you out” /Stop burning bridges and drive off of them / So I can forget about you /So bury me in memory, his smile’s your rope / So wrap it tight around your throat.” The raucous musical approach to the songs paired with memorable lyrics made Fall Out Boy an overnight sensation as the word of mouth continued to work in their favor. The first single to be released from the album, “Dead On Arrival,” follows and its cool starts and stops to the music paired with drummer Andy Hurley’s steady beat made for another early standout. It’s a great introduction to the sound Fall Out Boy was going for on the record, and remains a staple of the band’s set to this day.
Arguably the song that started the largest movement in Fall Out Boy’s astronomical trajectory, “Grand Theft Autumn / Where Is Your Boy,” kicks off with a sing-a-long chorus, before a great riff by Trohman leads the band down a path that allows for the music to flow right out of them. The verse of, “Someday I’ll appreciate in value / Get off my ass and call you / In the meantime / I’ll sport my rand new fashion of waking up with pants on at / Four in the afternoon,” is just classic penmanship from Pete Wentz, who weaves a tangled web of words that stick in the listeners’ headspace for days. The front-loaded album of hits follows with another sure-fire gem called “Saturday” as Stump sings speedily, “I’m good to go, and I’m going nowhere fast, it could be worse / I could be taking you there with me / I’m good to go, but it looks like / I’m still on my own /I’m good to go for something golden / Though the motions I’ve been going through have failed / And I’m coasting on potential towards a wall at a
hundred miles an hour.” The music video features live footage from the band’s early shows and highlighted what made them such a fun band to see live.
The middle section of the album never lacks momentum as “Homesick at Space Camp” and “Sending Postcards From a Plane Crash (Wish You Were Here)” found Fall Out Boy getting their footing as talented songwriters. One of my all-time favorite Fall Out Boy songs, “Chicago is So Two Years Ago,” is incredibly well-constructed and made me a lifelong fan of the band. The electric pre-chorus of, “‘Cause every pane of glass that your pebbles tap / Negates the pains I went through to avoid you / And every little pat on the shoulder for attention / Fails to mention I still hate you,” is as painful as it is brilliant, and makes the band that much more relatable.
The band introduced a more aggressive side to their sound on later tracks like “The Pros and Cons of Breathing” and “Grenade Jumper,” with the latter featuring gang vocals in the refrain. “Calm Before the Storm” continues down the lyrical path of doubt and lack of trust in relationships as Stump mentions, “What you do on your own time’s just fine / My imagination’s much worse, I just never want to know.” By the time you reach the album closer of “The Patron Saint of Liars and Fakes” you’re likely wondering just how this band remained undiscovered for so long. That band that seemed to be in everyone’s “back pocket” was exploding at just the right time, and they left audiences screaming the final lines of, “So, and when it all goes to hell / Will you be able to tell me ‘sorry’ with a straight face?”
While From Under The Cork Tree made Fall Out Boy rock stars in every sense of the word, Take This To Your Grave was the album that started that first wave of momentum. I remember my excitement of “discovering” this album as the band was gaining more and more fans through each concert, and seeing them steal the show when they opened for Mest on one of their first nationwide tours that pointed to the obvious signs that this band was destined to be huge. I ended up chatting with the band after their set at the legendary 9:30 Club, and little did I know that I would be talking to one of the biggest pop-culture icons in our scene, Pete Wentz, about the big things that lay ahead for their band. The next time I saw the band at the 9:30 Club, they were headlining right before From Under The Cork Tree was about to come out, and another chance meeting with the band allowed me to share with them that I thought they were “about to become the biggest band in the world.” Turns out I was right in my assessment then, and Fall Out Boy have continued to age gracefully with each of their records that they have released. That first love may have broken their hearts, but it sure as hell provided them with plenty of lyrical material to craft a landmark debut.