It isn't very often these days that you hear the term "race traitor" thrown around in casual conversation. That is, unless you're at a Prussian Blue show—or you happen to be discussing those Morrissey-worshipping pop-punks Fall Out Boy. As surprising as it may be, there is a connection between the phrase and the band—and no, Pete Wentz didn't recently get kidnapped and forced into some protest rally: Fall Out Boy drummer Andy Hurley used to play in Chicago hardcore band Racetraitor (and subsequent side-project Kill the Slavemaster).
Awkwardly militant liberalism aside, Racetraitor tore through Chicago's hardcore scene in the mid-'90s, touring and promoting relentlessly. Described as "fiery," "radical" and "uncompromisingly brutal," the band released its debut full-length Burn the Idol of the White Messiah(making one wonder what album titles didn'tmake the cut) in 1998 to swelling fanfare. But as they began work on their second full-length and entered into talks with various labels, the band dissolved.
And Fall Out Boy was born.
The band's upcoming album Infinity on High finds Fall Out Boy treading only a slightly different path. Single "This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race" channels boy-band-pop and Maroon 5 amidst hints of the band's punk-rock past. Many of the new songs follow suit, and almost all of them continue on the band's pun-happy theming ("Carpal Tunnel of Love," for example). Once you know about Racetraitor, though, it's hard to think of or talk about Fall Out Boy without images of sweaty, emaciated hardcore kids coming to mind. Especially since Hurley was also loosely tied to the band Vegan Reich.
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That Fall Out Boy tourmates New Found Glory share a similar lineage is also noteworthy. Turns out that New Found Glory guitarist Chad Gilbert sang for Florida metalcore band Shai Hulud. Known for their brutally (see a theme?) positive messages and religious leanings, Shai Hulud carved out a tough-sounding niche for themselves, releasing albums with titles like Hearts Once Nourished With Hope and Compassionand A Profound Hatred of Man. Of course, when Gilbert joined New Found Glory, the rapid-fire drums and guttural barks of his past were dropped in favor of pop-punk's simpler rhythms and saccharine vocals.
The thing about all this is none of it is secret in any way; it's just well-hidden fact—and justifies a serious listen to the bands, whatever your actual feelings on them may be. If you listen carefully enough, it's possible you'll hear traces of the bands' hardcore and metal pasts. It might even be some of the most overwhelmingly brutal music ever. Best of all, I'm sure these mini-histories don't even begin to scratch the surface of the metal to pop-punk transformations—they're simply by far some of the most interesting.
Racetraitor? Vegan Reich? Come on!
Fall Out Boy play with New Found Glory, The Early November and Permanent Me at the Grove of Anaheim, 2200 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim, (714) 712-2700. Fri., 7 p.m. $30.