From basement shows up on the North Shore to achieving unprecedented mainstream success as a pop-punk outfit to becoming a living, breathing version of stadium jock jams, Fall Out Boy has put together two decades of infectious hooks and clever lyrics. Crowds are won and lost and won again, but they still bring joy to the beating hearts of the diehards. Evolution is a mixed bag and loyal supporters like myself pine for the good old days yet cannot begrudge the decision to re-tool, re-mix, and rise again like a phoenix. Choosing a favorite album is difficult because much like children, one loves all of them differently. So if I can live through this, I can do anything.
For the purposes of this list, we'll consider only the LPs, meaning Lake Effect Kid and My Heart Will Always Be the B-Side to My Tongue are ineligible and it's as though PAX AM Days never existed. The best way to make it through this paragraph with hearts and wrists intact is to realize two out of those three ain't bad. Believers Never Die, though it contains the wonderful Alpha Dog — one of the most under-appreciated songs in the catalog — is a greatest hits album and thus unlike the others.
Alright with all that preamble out of the way, we're good to go. Let's get going nowhere fast.
7. Mania (2018)
Though Fall Out Boy continues to tour, the four-plus years since their most recent album suggests it may very well be the last. And there are some memories on there to be thankful for even if in its entirety the effort wasn't so great. The 10-song journey is chaotic and shifts wildly in tone and tenor. There are some tight, made-for-radio play bangers in there like The Last of the Real Ones and Champion. Patrick Stump's soulful vocals are on full display on Church and Heaven's Gate and there's honest-to-goodness fun to be had on Wilson (Expensive Mistakes). But in total a release that was pushed back because it wasn't ready was perhaps not truly ever ready. It felt like a band throwing some things at the wall trying yet another re-invention of the wheel only to run themselves over.
6. Save Rock and Roll (2013)
FOB re-emerged after a four-year hiatus with a monster hit in My Songs Know What You Did In the Dark (Light Em Up) and experienced oversaturation for the very first time in the band's history. Older, perhaps wiser, and certainly more connected, the comeback album featured collaborations with Courtney Love, Big Sean, and Elton John. The Phoenix is a pulsing electric ride and one of the best concert staples in the catalog, while the titular Save Rock and Roll drives home how reliable the band nails soaring ballads. My personal hesitation with this record, though, is that it felt a bit too processed and geared toward a younger audience. Outside of the lighted mups, little emerged as either a Top-20 Fall Out Boy song or resonated commercially. Make no mistake. It was great to have them back. It's still great to have them back.
5. American Beauty/American Psycho (2015)
A much stronger and interesting and diverse follow-up to Save Rock and Roll, AB/AP is expertly produced and a testament to the many tools in Fall Out Boy's bag. Centuries emerged as a massive moment and owned college football for a full year. Irresistible and Uma Thurman also broke out — the first an infectious sing-a-long and the second a bizarre yet effective jam driven largely by sampling The Munsters theme song. Immortals was featured in Big Hero 6 if you like that sort of thing. But the story of this record is not the commercial success. It's the incredibly interesting things going on off of the beaten path. Jet Pack Blues sounds almost like a country song and is beautiful. The Kids Aren't Alright is an all-timer. Fourth of July rules. All of these felt more mature, more developed than anything the band ever did or has done sense. And it's done without losing that devotion to melody and pop sensibility.
4. Folie à Deux (2008)
If Steve Harvey's team surveyed 100 Fall Out Boys fans, there's no doubt that the final album before the breakup would poll lower than this. But I Don't Care, because the weirdness should be embraced, not used as a negative. There are 13 songs and they all bop. It is the best release to listen to front to back and then over again. America's Suitehearts is the closest any track came to breaking through, yet it's in the bottom third in terms of quality. Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes hits you in the chest, you buy everything Coffee's For Closers is selling, and The (Shipped) Gold Standard is magnificent. The pop is further developed and this was the last time the lyrics, the real reason I fell in love with the band, danced and soared with out-of-the-box thinking.
3. Take This To Your Grave (2003)
What a way to announce yourself to the world. Or at least the pop-punk scene, which was desperate for someone to perfect the formula. Tell That Mick He Just Made My List of Things to Do Today wasted no time changing the game, going impossibly hard. Grand Theft Autumn is a melodic masterpiece. And the excellence just keeps on rolling through Saturday and Chicago Is So Two Years Ago. It's an album, made by teenagers for teenagers and both parties share a common belief that anything is possible. It's hard to overstate just how revolutionary the debut was to me personally and how personal it remains. It portended great things that were eventually realized yet was off-the-beaten-path enough to feel special, like a secret shared. Pete Wentz emerged as a certified genius and explored the space with lyrics that belong on a Live Journal. Which at that time, was the highest compliment one could ever give.
2. From Under the Cork Tree (2005)
If God had created a CMS where I could put this as 1b, I would. Sugar, We're Going Down remains the most celebrated song in the discography and only gets better with time. Few have ever done so much with the D-G-B min chord progression. Rare is the release where simply reading the names of the songs a secondary experience because, wow, did they ever go for it. Champagne for My Real Friends, Real Pain for My Sham Friends. I Slept with Someone in Fall Out Boy and All I Got Was This Stupid Song Written About Me. Our Lawyer Made Us Change the Name of This Song So We Wouldn't Get Sued. The list goes on and on. Musically there's that second-year jump we see in athletes where the skills have been honed and the rough edges smoothed. At the time it seemed impossible that they could get better.
1. Infinity on High (2007)
But they did. The first voice you hear on the album is that of Jay-Z announcing Thriller. Fall Out Boy surveyed their unexpected explosion into the mainstream, at their nadir and said this: "Last summer we took threes across the board, but by fall we were a cover story now in stores. Make us poster boys for your scene, but we are not making an acceptance speech." It was everything the diehards and loyalists wanted to hear, though ultimately that changed. At that time, though, it was perfect. So too is the album. Hum Hallelujah and Thks fr the mmrs are top-five songs. They play fast and they play slow and they drip confidence and charisma. It's the purest distillation of what the band wanted to be at the height of their powers before things got complicated and messy. Living in that moment, even 15 years later, still feels as special.