Who really knew what would come of Patrick Stump, Pete Wentz, Joe Trohman and Andy Hurley? Alas, here they are, tongue in cheek (I hope). Much is to be said about the band’s return offering, Save Rock and Roll – not all is praise. Rewind to early February 2013, the Internet went into a frenzy churning rumours of their return. The rumours were denied, next thing we know, a new single, My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark. Fall Out Boy is back, and with a new track. What? When were they even recording new music? Why the secrecy? This was followed by a full-length album to support their mission. Lets face it, it’s so easy to make fun of the album title that I won’t even go there – even they know that this is a far cry from rock ‘n roll.
Save Rock and Roll is the bands fifth studio album. It’s not conventional rock n roll, or punk, for that matter. Do those terms even fit in the same sentence? “Conventional” and “Rock n Roll” – anyway, I digress. In retrospect, if you consider the bands 2007 Infinity on High (Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Pink – all featured on this album), and their 2009 follow-up Folie À Deux, to their latest offering, then yes, I’d say that this was an inevitable emergence from the punk-rock poster boys we once knew to pop idols.
Album opener, The Phoenix kicks off with Stump’s angry vocals in a call to arms, “Put on your war paint”. Its crowd-pleasing anthemic hooks are likely to blow away stadium fans. This track defines exactly what to expect from the rest of this album. It’s not just the melody, but the clever way in which they channel the symbolism of the phoenix – giving up their old selves with a readiness to be transformed into something new – “Hey young blood, doesn’t it feel like our time is running out. I’m gonna change you like a remix and I’ll raise you like a Phoenix”. It’s a good opener; it’s not convincing, but it’s energetic, it’s big, and it’s exactly what a comeback requires.
The single that marked the end of FOB’s hiatus, My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark, carries on with the phoenix reference – creative destruction and rebirth- “I’m on Fire” – except, from the ashes rose a band so pop worthy, that pop singers will soon be drawing inspiration from them. The genre blurring continues as the track features hip-hop artist 2 Chainz and is laced with big choruses and catchy hooks, but a bit too pompous for my liking. Where are the guitars and drums and why have they returned sans FOB?
While these singles are lyrically focused on announcing the bands return, the third track, Alone Together, is more of a broken love song, “My heart is like a stallion, they love it more when it’s broken”. Lyrically, it makes sense. Melodically, not so much. This is followed by, Where Did The Party Go, dance-pop-rock with a catchy chorus. I can’t stop hearing Miley Cyrus type vocals laid over this.
As if we needed more proof that FOB drew inspiration from todays pop elite, along comes Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”. Just One Yesterday is one of the more appealing tracks. Ironically enough, the track features British solo artist Foxes (no clue who she was, I Googled her). Despite the confusion at the start, it morphs into a beaut of a track and is undeniably the best track on the album.
It all goes a bit pear-shaped from there, The Mighty Fall begins with a rap interlude featuring Big Sean. With lyrics like, “Hell yeah I’m a dick babe, I’m addicted to you”. God help us.
Miss Missing You and Death Valley feel more like album fillers. I can actually hear the latter spinning off the decks of a club DJ after David Gueta’s “Titanium” – it’s got that dance anthem vibe to it, and just in case you’re still not convinced that the band is relevant and modern, there’s a hint of dubstep to prove their point.
Young Volcanoes is an acoustic pop track with hand-clapping to fill in where drums should have taken over. I can see this turning into an anthem with lyrics such as, “We are wild, we are like young volcanoes.” It’s pleasant and upbeat, and I like Stump’s cheeky giggle after, “We will teach you how to make boys next door out of assholes”.
The album closes with the most unpredictable and confounding of collaborations, Courtney Love and Elton John. Rat-A-Tat kicks off with her spin on Britney Spears, “It’s Courtney bitch” and rapping some strange verse followed by Stumps aptly timed lyrics, “Are you ready for another bad poem? Another off-key anthem?” Not that I think Courtney Love has any place on a FOB album, but, the song has a catchy hook and if they were going this route, they should have made better use of her vocals. I can only but assume that the band was being facetious by featuring Elton John on the title track Save Rock and Roll. It’s a piano-driven ballad, which lyrically ties together the bands mission and sounds like a justification of their return. Elton John literally closes the album, it’s his voice we hear at the end and not Stump’s, who I felt should have sealed off this entire production.
Not to say that this album is weak, but if Stump’s vocals weren’t so distinct, I’d never have guessed this to be the face of punk-rock for almost a decade. However, if there’s one thing this album doesn’t lack, it’s clever, catchy lyrics. FOB were always good at that, but seriously, with such a presumptuous album title this is way too little rock, too little punk, too little FOB! Who are these guys? I hoped for heavier melodies, more guitars, and more drums. Melodically, this was a disappointment.
This is a gutsy move on their part, but hey, they were out of the game, their solo careers weren’t taking off, and they had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I don’t think they saved rock and roll, but if you’re looking for the FOB of yester-year, you won’t find them on this album. If you’re okay with na-na-na, whoas and yeah’s splashed with synths and a hint of bubblegum then yeah, fukkit, who am I kidding, it’s pop. This album was made for radio. There, I said it.