Fall Out Boy’s meteoric rise from beloved pop-punk pranksters to the most ambitious, game-for-anything stadium-rock band of their time was gradual. But with each successive album following 2005’s From Under the Cork Tree, the band found ways to up their ante over and over again.
They brought quality hits with them along the path: the anthemic “Sugar, We’re Going Down,” the double-time sneer “Dance, Dance,” the meta-glam shuffle “I Don’t Care,” the retro Black Eyed Peas move “Uma Thurman,” and the hurricane of strings that kick off “The Phoenix.”
But many of their best songs aren’t singles at all, and here’s a handy guide to finding their eleven best hidden jewels in an expansive catalogue that’s never made the same record twice.
11. “Eternal Summer” (from 2013’s PAX AM Days)
“Eternal Summer” is a jagged noiselet from the Ryan Adams-recorded lark PAX AM Days, which is just a 13-minute EP of styles Fall Out Boy had all but abandoned by 2013 (if they ever did them in the first place). The feedback-swollen first 30 seconds could be their take on the Jesus Lizard, before a hardcore riff sets in and suddenly we’re faced with the bizarrely entrancing spectacle of Patrick Stump’s well-trained operatic vibrato fronting Minor Throat or Black Flag in their prime.
It’s possibly the most dissonant thing this band ever recorded, and all the better that it’s sandwiched between the album Elton John guested on and the album that sampled the Munsters theme.
10. “Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes” (from 2009’s Folie à Deux)
The most melodic opener of Fall Out Boy’s albums is a widescreen epic that veers from Elvis Costello sophistication over somber organ to “Baba O’Riley”-style chord stabs. It instantly signaled that their fourth album Folie à Deux was going to be like nothing before it.
It’s overblown for sure, with those football chants of “Detox, just to retox!” Whatever drama is contained with this Flintstones-referencing title sounds mighty confused (“Nobody wants to hear you sing about tragedy?” Isn’t it happiness that’s said to write white?), and the best line in the song is actually misheard: What sounds clearly like “Imperfect boys with their perfect ploys” turns out to be “perfect lives.” But the whole winning jumble is like a tumbling Rubik’s cube with a hook on each side, and set up the band’s most accomplished album to date on a high note.
9. “Snitches and Talkers Get Stitches and Walkers”(from 2006’s From Under the Cork Tree Limited ‘Black Clouds and Underdogs’ Edition)
While Fall Out Boy began as, indeed, a punk band, they rarely sounded like one even at their beginnings. Patrick Stump soared too much over the band, replacing crunchy riffs with ululations of his supple voice that functioned the way guitar solos would. But this B-side from their breakthrough album’s era actually crunches, tenses up, stutters, shouts, releases. Oh, and it threatens too — to break the jaw of a “homewrecker with a heart of gold.” Only a lyricist like Pete Wentz could transport Stump to a place where he gets cheated on and is still viewed as the bad guy.
8. “Miss Missing You” (from 2013’s Save Rock and Roll)
There’s a sturdy argument for Save Rock and Roll as Fall Out Boy’s best album, because for ten tracks and no more, it nails everything needed to boost them to arena-star levels. Violent, swooping strings. Surprise guests galore. And it even nails the ballads. It’s where they transition into pure pop; there’s even a Foxes duet that bites “Rolling in the Deep.” But the burbling new-wave synths of “Miss Missing You” give an on-fire Patrick Stump a shamelessly catchy backdrop the band couldn’t have conceived before their self-imposted hiatus from 2009 to 2013. The chorus is impossible to extract from your brain once it’s lodged in it, even when it’s reprised at the end with just an acoustic guitar.
7. “Hum Hallelujah” (from 2007’s Infinity on High)
Along with, say, “A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More ‘Touch Me’,” this highlight from Infinity on High drops a lot of punk pretense to just toss out an effortless pop song, before the band really possessed the (Pro)tools to make one on anything but standard guitar/bass/drums. Indeed, you’ll hum along with every note, including a bridge section that may be the only pop-punk Leonard Cohen tribute extant.
6. “Church” (from 2018’s MANIA)
Fall Out Boy’s new album flirts with 32 flavors of largesse: far-in-the-red EDM breakdowns, trop-house, boycotting the color black until they make something darker. But centerpiece “Church” utilizes a much simpler, time-honored device: a wrecking ball of a chorus featuring a church congregation to add gorgeous gospel harmonies to the eerie and deliciously overblown melody. In one of Patrick Stump’s greatest performances, he rises to the challenge of the choir and belts like he’s trying out for American Idol. It works, too: These guys know how find the pleasure in excess. Plus, let’s not take the rare-and-wild one-word Fall Out Boy song title for granted.
5. “Fame < Infamy” (from 2007’s Infinity on High)
Has there ever been a punk band that sang about fame this much? Of course, that’s probably why it didn’t take long before Fall Out Boy had more fame in them than punk, but they’ve still wrung plenty of decent juice out of their absurd juxtapositions — like the all-time chorus on “I Don’t Care” (“I don’t care what you think as long as it’s about me”) or their deployment of Jay-Z on “Thriller” and Kanye on a non-album “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race” remix where he hilariously seemed to diss the band on their own shit (“Now I don’t even know what this song’s talkin’ ‘bout…”).
The best song on the band’s transitional third album is a typical hodgepodge of Stump’s metaphors and witticisms over a similar tango-metal feel to Paramore’s “Ignorance.” You can dance to this one’s nicely harmonized double-time hook, which goes, “The kid was alright but it went to his head.”
4. “Our Lawyer Made Us Change the Name of This Song So We Wouldn’t Get Sued” (from 2005’s From Under the Cork Tree)
The leading manifesto on Fall Out Boy’s breakthrough album sums up their whimsical brand of smarm in the outrageous title (which is somehow not the album’s longest, an honor that belongs to “I Slept With Someone in Fall Out Boy and All I Got Was This Stupid Song Written About Me”). Then there’s the shuttering camera sounds from the outset, and too-extra eyeroll pre-chorus of “The ribbon on my wrist says ‘Do not open before Christmas’.”
But this is everything Fall Out Boy did well in 2005, with Stump testing out his growing R&B falsetto on the breakdown, and the hook admitting they’re liars but with “such good fashion sense.” Fall Out Boy’s always been good for holding up a mirror to both themselves and the ridiculousness of popularity in the first place. And making it hummable, too.
3. “Tell That Mick He Just Made My List of Things to Do Today (from 2003’s Take This to Your Grave)
The opening track on Fall Out Boy’s full-length debut is a shot of classic pop-punk far more traditional than anything they’d go on to do since, like the Get Up Kids meet three espressos. Its tightly wound melody contains all the hallmarks that would remain their signatures though, between its Rushmore-nicked title and Brand New-level revenge fantasy couplets like “As when you wrap your car around a tree/ Your makeup looks so great next to his teeth.” They honestly could’ve gone on effortlessly making records like this forever.
2. “Rat a Tat” (from 2013’s Save Rock and Roll)
“It’s Courtney, bitch!” Courtney Love makes everything better, including this amazing battering ram toward the climax of the quartet’s 2013 comeback album, where spoken-word verses and Patrick Stump’s guilty-pleasure axioms like “I’m about to make your sweat go backwards” crisscross with admissions like “Are you ready for another bad poem?” The chorus, massed for stadiums, fights growing old and kindly asks that St. Peter lower his standard. For the rock-starved 2010s, “Rat a Tat” is near-perfection. In fact, it could’ve been No. 1 on this list if a third of it wasn’t unfairly ceded to a cracked genius who’s not in Fall Out Boy.
1. “(Coffee’s for Closers)” (from 2009’s Folie à Deux)
The only other song in Fall Out Boy’s catalogue big and beautiful enough to compete with “Rat a Tat” is this pounding, string-laden monolith whose title, per usual, was swiped from Glengarry Glen Ross for no particular reason. “(Coffee’s for Closers)” crunches, swoops and slides, while Patrick Stump sings his theater-kid heart out as hooks build impossibly atop each other, each one stacking closer to the sun like a perilous Jenga tower. In a way, the song feels like three choruses revolving in succession, an optical illusion where each time you think it’s getting higher, the next one goes even bigger. It feels like a culmination of everything this band had in them. And the symphonic outro is nice too.