Fall Out Boy
Thursday, Jan. 18, 7 p.m.
Disco Rodeo, Raleigh
Openers New Found Glory, The Early November and Permanent Me
Until a month ago, Fall Out Boy was pretty uninteresting: Aside from having a bassist who wrote all the lyrics and a singer who never talked, the most fascinating thing about the Illinois pop-punk quartet was the fact no one understood the words to their songs. Teenage smartasses would even post joke videos on YouTube with incorrect lyrics running beneath in captions. As such, "Nuts in your bedpost" is funny exactly once.
But things changed when news of their new record, Infinity on High, started to leak. Talk of totally insane guest spots (Jay-Z?), off-the-wall producers (Babyface?) and genre-bending spread quickly, leaving a lot of folks wondering what the hell happened to emo's slightly enigmatic poster children. Then the video for "This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race" debuted on MTV, more than a month ahead of Infinity's Feb. 6 release date. Everything made sense. Somehow, Fall Out Boy had become the most compelling band Gen MySpace had produced. And they only had to trade underground conviction for the uncertainty of fame.
The video for "This Ain't a Scene" opens with the boys sulking off of the prom stage from their "Dance, Dance" video, pushing their way through a crowd of cut-and-paste partiers. Then, it swan dives into rock cliché: They're laughed out of a hip-hop studio by big-shot producers, only to have some sketch-ball photographer convince bassist Pete Wentz to show his junk at a photo shoot. Of course there's a pillow fight with Playmates. There always is, right? But just when the lampooning seems over, things get really good.
About three minutes in, Wentz of the disrobed member falls to his death through a hotel window while the song barrels on. A solo gives way to a bridge, and we're suddenly graveside. But, as with most Fall Out Boy clips, the atmosphere is cute, maybe a little crazy. So we've got cheerleaders, a mob of mourners, and a gospel choir swaying at Pete's graveside. And to top it off, they bring everyone back from their past videos. The antler boy from "Sugar, We're Going Down" is making out with his true love. The rug-cutter from "Dance, Dance" is shimmying like crazy. But just when the whole thing gets too spoofy-weird, Wentz throws the coffin lid open. It was all a horrible, horrible dream. Wentz is alive, well and waking up late for a gig at some crowded VFW hall in Des Moines, Iowa, three years ago, long before the band was even close to famous. The band heads to the stage and delivers the final chorus with the kids.
If "This Ain't a Scene" is any indication, Fall Out Boy isn't entirely comfortable with the whole fame thing. Or at least that's what they want us to believe. Given their druthers, maybe Wentz and the boys would do a couple of things differently?
Or maybe not: Perhaps the video is little more than a celebration of the band's success, even if it looks tongue-in-cheek. "Look at us party with rappers! Never mind that they're laughing at us." "Look at us hang out with hot girls! Oops, Pete fell out the window. It doesn't matter, cause we're still famous and his funeral will totally kick ass!" But, when 2003 Wentz wakes up from his "nightmare" totally relieved, we realize the vid is wrapped in a mini-meta concept that basically says, "We're famous now—sorry about that. Can't really help it anymore. We miss the old days too. Well, sort of."
"This Ain't a Scene" is all electro-boogie intros and verses until the money-shot chorus steps on the gas. But this is just the tip of the iceberg: Hip-hop, beyond-mega mogul and Island Def Jam president Jay-Z is said to lay down the intro for Infinity, and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds gets at least three shots here. There's an almost uncomfortable amount of experimentation with electronic music.
This is the new, wonderfully confused, totally conflicted Fall Out Boy. It's going to be wild.