By William Louderback
2023 is still young, yet already Tom is back in Blink-182, Scratch21 is releasing music again, and Panic! is well and truly dead. At the same time, we have three complete albums released by major pop-punk scene bands, and I figured that now would be the perfect time to compare them to previous works and offer my thoughts and recommendations, not that I have any credentials besides an obsession my friends consider—quite reasonably—unhealthy.
This is Why – Paramore, February 10, 2023
This is Why follows Paramore’s 2018 record, After Laughter; not their best received, and often considered ‘too poppy’ by the standards of people that frankly make me roll my eyes a little. It was a step as necessary as This is Why in defining Paramore’s development. 2005’s RIOT! was quick, punchy, and extra edgy from a perspective that was underrepresented in its genre for the time. Hailey Willams’s spite turned to a melancholic tenderness as the albums wore on, and by This is Why we see the final stage of her journey—still depressed, to be sure, but a fully developed, cool and accepting adult. I’m happy for her. I may prefer the fast-paced RIOT! for the memories of a Myspace era I never truly lived, I may not care for “C’est Comme Cą” or “Big Man, Little Dignity” as much as I love “Misery Business” and “Fences”, but seeing Hailey beginning to be comfortable as she is in This is Why is a transition I wanted to see.
Tell Me I’m Alive – All Time Low, March 14, 2023
I kind of feel guilty for how much I love my second-favorite band, but I’m honest when I say that these four from outside of Baltimore have probably affected the state of my mental health for the better. So, when Tell Me I’m Alive dropped, referred to simply as “TMIA” within the fanbase, I was one of the first to listen, even making it on a limited time premier out of excitement, still in my pajamas. A lot of us on Pacific Standard Time were. Many fans were disappointed by the album, though. I can’t say I was let down, because I like the album, but its ranking for many as ‘mid’ seems fair. It will never, for me, conquer Don’t Panic, a God-tier album, up with Infinity on High if I’ve ever heard one, and it doesn’t beat the trilogy of Future Hearts, Last Young Renegade and Wake Up, Sunshine in my eyes. Still, tracks like “Lost Along the Way”, “The Sound of Letting Go”, and the title track itself remind me why I love this band, and what they mean to me emotionally. And honestly, just like This is Why, 70s Elton-fuelled prog rock revolution in a pop-punk album is what I honestly needed to hear.
So Much (for) Stardust – Fall Out Boy, March 24, 2023
All I can say is, what a way to end this article. Gone for the longest stretch in their over two decade history, the boys are back in town. And with them comes So Much (for) Stardust. This album combines the feelings of their previous albums such as From Under the Cork Tree, Infinity on High (my favorite album ever), Folie à Deux, and post-hiatus Save Rock and Roll, without copying any of them. It’s a record entirely unique, and yet it feels like a culmination. It’s simultaneously hardcore, punk, scene, just a bit poppy—it’s every era, back at once but unrecognizable through the claymation and 80s film poster parodies. From old ground retraced in Heaven, Iowa and Heartbreak Feels so Good, to discussions of the pandemic in “What a Time to Be Alive” and the loss of self and band identity in “The Kintsugi Kid”, this entire album has immediately etched a place into Fall Out Boy lore, forever. I’m grateful to have it, and it was the most worthy way to top off this trilogy.