From Under the Cork Tree is the second full-length album from Fall Out Boy. Serving as their mainstream breakthrough, the album helped to popularize punk within the realm of emo, serving well alongside the budding genre. Cork Tree, particularly two of its hit singles – “Dance, Dance” and “Sugar, We’re Going Down” – is one of the most recognizable rock efforts of the 21st century as a result of its success and imprint on the emo genre.
For those in tune with the stylings of 2000s pop-punk and emo-rock, From Under the Cork Tree treads on strikingly familiar territory while simultaneously laying down new foundations.
Specifically, tracks like “Our Lawyer Made Us Change The Name Of This Song So We Wouldn’t Get Sued” falls in line synonymously with both the grandiose song titles and fourth-wall breaking lyrics that would go on to shape the early sound of Panic! At The Disco. Meanwhile, the album’s grungier riffs, like the introduction to “Of All The Gin Joints In The World”, call to mind some of My Chemical Romance’s early work, particularly from their 2002 debut, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love.
However, where the album has its similarities, there are also unique elements to be found. Cork Tree establishes crisp drum beats and groovy bass lines in “Dance, Dance”, one of the album’s highlights. It’s these fresh takes on otherwise recognizable punk elements that introduce a fresh punk vibe to the band’s early emo sound.
Verging away from a comparative basis, Cork Tree delivers a variety of sound, even if it stays largely within punk domains. Vocalist and guitarist Patrick Stump brings a charming edge to lyricist Pete Wentz’s witty, if not grim lyrics; the album’s first lyric literally tells listeners, in Snicket-esque fashion, to “put this record down, take my advice, ‘cause we are bad news.”
But with the edge comes the somber in some of the album’s slower songs. One such lyric from “Sugar, We’re Going Down,” “I’m just a notch in your bedpost, but you’re just a line in a song,” ascends the song’s narrative to address itself while bringing genuinely smart writing to the table. Another song, “Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner”, toys with wordplay and irony to keep the wit rolling: “So wear me like a locket around your throat/I'll weigh you down/I'll watch you choke/You look so good in blue."
From Under the Cork Tree feels like reading the beginning of a history book in that you get to listen to the beginning of an era. Fall Out Boy, with their first mainstream success, solidified not only the band's fanbase, but an entire genre with Cork Tree’s thirteen tracks of non-stop hits.
From Under the Cork Tree helped to solidify Fall Out Boy’s status as both a stable rock group in addition to one of the three largest “emo” bands of the mid-00s alongside Panic! At The Disco and My Chemical Romance.
Releasing around the same time as P!ATD’s A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out (an album I reviewed back in December) and MCR’s Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, Cork Tree helped to cultivate a following within the emo subgenre of punk-rock, with the three aforementioned bands coming to be known as the “trinity” of emo-rock.
Cork Tree would go on to be named the ninth-greatest emo album in Rolling Stone’s 40 Greatest Emo Albums of All Time.
“Fall Out Boy changed the course of emo-punk, pop-punk and pop itself with From Under the Cork Tree,” the magazine wrote in its ranking.
For some, Cork Tree was meant to be a grandstand effort that would follow in the footsteps of the band's debut, 2003’s Take This to Your Grave. Others, before Cork Tree’s release, would introduce Fall Out Boy as one of the biggest new acts, breaking through the charts to turn the band into ultrastars. Cork Tree, however, was seen by many as a step away from their debut sound.
Wentz, however, has defended their sophomore album for what it is:
"We wrote a record that means a lot to us but maybe isn't going to mean a lot to the people who are hyping us as the next big thing. And that's fine. We don't want to be the saviors of anything — we just want to be ourselves."
Fall Out Boy’s fifth top-10 album and third No. 1 on the US Billboard 200, American Beauty/American Psycho, released in 2015. The band embarked on tour during that year before headlining the Reading and Leeds music festival in 2016.
At their headlining Reading performance, Wentz told the audience that the band would be “back with new music.” No plans for a new album from the band have since been confirmed.
Next week’s review: The Strokes’ “Is This It”