Are We Growing Up Or Just Going Down? Ten Years of From Under the Cork Tree
Fall Out Boy’s From Under the Cork Tree recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary, and outside of the crushing reminder that we’re all getting old as fuck, the POZ staff decided to celebrate it the only way music nerds know how: with a lengthy discussion deconstructing the album’s impact on ourselves, our scene, and beyond. The voices involved come from POZ founding father Zack Zarrillo, editor-in-chief Erik van Rheenen, senior editors Jesse Richman and Adrienne Fisher, and community manager Connor Sheehan. So read what we had to say below, and be sure to crank up “Dance, Dance” as loud as your speakers will allow while you’re doing it.
AF: Somehow, it’s been ten years since Fall Out Boy released From Under the Cork Tree and set their monster career loose on the world. This was THE polarizing record - the one that launched FOB into the arms of a wider audience and consequently alienated many of the original strain of Overcast Kids who “were there first.” An album that timestamps the glory of the FBR years, FUCT paved the way for bands like FOB, MCR, and Paramore to supplant not only the very idea of emo in the underground, but also unseat many of the reigning Top 40 radio regulars - a trend that hasn’t really been accomplished since by anyone borne of our little world. Not to mention that a sudden and meteoric influx of fame and visibility probably informed the band’s FUCT-era decisions more than we realize. The packaged legacy of music, haircuts, and teen-girl appeal certainly cemented an insignia of glamour-over-guts on FOB’s reputation, one that was digested even more divisively when read in conjunction with the super-public, super-extravagant antics of Pete Wentz.
I was talking to joolu and he shared some of his homestuck parodies with me. It got me thinking if I could ever sing one… somehow I ended up doing this. This is just me dicking around, but I did at least do some minor mixing.
Who is this guy? I suppose it depends on when you’re asking. If you’re asking in 1974, well, Jon Landau, writing for The Real Paper, summed it up most famously: “I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” This was after Springsteen had already (relatively quietly) released both a debut album and a sophomore effort in 1973: Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, respectively.
If you’re asking the question roughly a decade later, Bruce Springsteen is the biggest rock and roll artist on the planet. Born in the U.S.A., released in 1984, is Springsteen’s most epic commercial success. The album spawned a record-tying seven Top 10 singles, and its album art became an iconic image in the lore of not just rock and roll, but global pop culture. The Boss was able to transition from ’70s rock to ’80s pop without missing much of a beat.
Finally, if you’re asking the question today, Springsteen is a living rock legend. Now 18 albums deep into one of the most accomplished careers by any artist in any genre, Springsteen has maintained popularity and success in the eyes of both the general American public and an extremely loyal and devoted fanbase. His style is diverse. When with his band, The E Street Band, Springsteen plays songs that range all over the rock and roll landscape, regularly incorporating no less than three guitars, bass, drums, saxophone, piano, organ, brass instruments, violin and anything else that you might think makes sense. But he’s also released mostly-acoustic efforts that have become equally respected, from 1982’s dark, moody, brilliant Nebraska to 2005’s slightly more spirited Devils & Dust.
In other words: There’s a hell of a lot to dig through here.
Where to start? You shouldn’t be discouraged by the weighty size of Springsteen’s catalog. In addition to the 18 studio albums, there are many more songs from odds-and-ends releases and even more tracks that only exist in live formats, but we can get through it. Above all: there isn’t a real need to listen to every single album. Depending on what kind of music you like, I can almost guarantee that there’s a Springsteen album for you. The early part of his career is best appreciated in one chunk, but there’s nothing wrong with picking and choosing what you try out first.
The quintessential starting point for Springsteen is your dad’s favorite album, Born to Run. In his early days, Springsteen was very much a “DIY” type of artist – he and his band would play in and around New Jersey, go on small tours and generally jam a lot. Remember, this was the ’70s, and there was no true rapid-fire success to be found. Columbia Records signed Springsteen to an album deal in the hopes that it was signing the next Bob Dylan. But while Springsteen is majorly influenced by Dylan, he has never been content to restrict his art to just himself and an acoustic guitar. He began making a name for himself by building up an early legacy of brilliant live performances (his live show is still top-notch). And with his third album, 1975’s Born to Run, he found breakout success.
Born to Run takes the best parts of Springsteen’s two earlier records – the poetic, Shakespearean lyricism and the dynamic musicianship (with the help of the E Street Band) which provides countless layers to digest – and blends them with a perfectly timed onslaught of rock and roll. The record’s title track is considered one of the greatest rock and roll songs ever written: it took Springsteen months to write “Born to Run” – wanting to get it perfect – during a time when he was known for taking less time than that to do entire albums. The record’s opening track, “Thunder Road,” is one of the best examples of pure storytelling I’ve ever found in music, and it’s my favorite song of all time. “Backstreets” and “She’s The One” are other notable highlights, and Born to Run’s closer, “Jungleland,” is an epic, 9-minute exclamation mark that ends the album on yet another storytelling high.
Born to Run was the album that proved Springsteen was capable of doing nearly anything, and it’s the one you should listen to first. If you’ve never heard any of these songs, I highly recommend listening for the first time at night, when you’ve already shut yourself down for the day, so that you can focus on the lyrics and the nuance of the musicianship. Listen to it on the best pair of speakers you can find. If it’s not your thing, try Born in the U.S.A. – it’s got Springsteen’s biggest hits and it’s probably his easiest record to pick up out of the blue.
A few weeks ago Zack and I did a podcast called The Truth About Spotify. In the episode, we stumbled into a discussion about how many times you should be able to listen to a song before an artist is compensated with payment equal to an iTunes download. Right now, Spotify pays a musician what an iTunes download pays if you listen to a song 84 times. This seemed drastically unfair to us, so we decided to ask the readers of PropertyOfZack how many times you should need to listen to a song before a musician is compensated in the same way that they would be for song “ownership.” Here’s what you thought:
As you can see above, the majority of the results centered around the belief that you shouldn’t have to pay to preview a song. This reflects the biggest flaw of the era before streaming, when you would need to purchase music to be able to tell if you even liked it. Conversely, only 8% of respondents felt that musicians should be compensated at the present rate or a lesser rate.
Nearly 75% of our respondents felt that musicians should be compensated at a much higher rate than Spotify – or any other streaming service – presently compensates artists. Over half of our respondents assert that we should compensate musicians at 10+ times the rate that the streaming services presently pay. This presents a huge problem, since in order to do this, either streaming services’ subscription rates will need to increase dramatically, or they will need to find and broaden additional sources of income.
The fact is, with corporate boards, investors and inevitable IPOs for the streaming music services, they don’t seem to have a route to ever paying musicians as much as fans feel they should be paid. So, are we looking at a future in music where musicians are never truly compensated for their music in the way they were during the iTunes era?
There almost wasn’t a column again, period. I felt just about ready to untie from around my ankle the anchor this scene has become — the same scene that introduced me to some of the best friends I have, the same scene I felt I belonged in — and shake it off somewhere over deep and desolate waters. When I first dreamed up the idea for this column, it was meant to spotlight the positivity of music: a love letter to the music we love, refracted through the songs we needed the most at just the time we needed them. But this week, none of my stories feel worth telling. Instead, I’m dedicating these words to those in our scene who can’t speak their own.
If you haven’t followed the AbsolutePunk front page in recent weeks, site founder Jason Tate compiled a comprehensive timeline of events that have come to pass in the scene revolving around the signing of the band No Good News. (The links aren’t for the faint of heart, but it’s absolutely necessary for readers to educate themselves on sexual assault.) The news coming out of the Pure Noise camp in recent weeks is stomach-knotting on its own, but it also reveals a sad and awful deeper truth: this scene truly lacks the inclusivity I felt when I discovered it.
Of course I felt like I belonged — I’m a straight, white, suburbanite male. I fit the mold. But this scene is flooded with rampant misogyny, underrepresentation, a lack of respect for women and others who don’t mesh with the pop-punk hegemony, a generally hand-waving attitude toward sexual assault and disregard for the absolute necessity of consent. This scene is poisoned.