Fall Out Boy – Save Rock and Roll review
00s Punk band emerges from hiatus with Elton John, Courtney Love, and new direction
I learned that Fall Out Boy had not only regrouped, but that they had a single out on the same day I heard My Chemical Romance had finally disbanded after years of speculation. Needless to say, I wished the roles were reversed — not that I had anything against FOB, but MCR was one of the most important bands of my formative years. I must also admit that I didn’t expect Fall Out Boy to reunite for Save Rock and Roll as singer/guitarist Patrick Stump’s solo career looked promising (I saw his solo act live, it was so much fun).
I must admit, I didn’t care for Fall Out Boy after their mainstream crossover from the independent circuit. FOB’s roots are in hardcore punk and they took a pop direction following the success of “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down Swingin’.” However, guitarist Joe Trohman and drummer Andy Hurley joined the original roster for the super group, The Damned Things: a band that boasts Every Time I Die singer Keith Buckley and Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian. While the hardcore punk element isn’t there in full force as I would personally prefer, I am happy to report that the pop element no longer feels like it’s appeasing the Top 40 list, but is instead embraced by the band.
The band certainly has a new sound that isn’t exactly easy to quantify. While they aren’t the Fall Out Boy you remember (or maybe even recognize), I’m not certain that Save Rock and Roll is an appropriate title as the band’s new sound is reminiscent of Stump’s solo “80s-synth-groove.” What I really am attempting to express is: “Just what brand/genre/type/kind of rock and roll does Fall Out Boy want to save? Or do they want to protect the entire, encompassing rock and roll spectrum as a whole?” The answer is never definitive.
The album begins with “The Phoenix,” the band’s statement/side of the story about their reemergence onto the international music scene. The band likens themselves to the mythical creature that rises out of the ashes after mayhem and bedlam. The next track, “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up),” is the band’s single on the radio right now and is the obvious highlight of the album.
The middle of the album contains tracks featuring artists like Foxes and Big Sean and falls into more of a pop sound than the beginning and the end of the album (mostly because the guitars seem to take a back seat to tones/mixes at times). The middle is the weakest part of the album as it begins loud and picks up your attention again with Courtney Love in “Rat a Tat.” “Rat a Tat” is a fast-paced, catchy song that blends 80s pop with late-70s Queen (think of a poor man’s “Na Na Na”).
Finally, Elton John himself shows up on the final track “Save Rock and Roll”: an anthem dedicated to preserving rock and roll from… something? Perhaps rock and roll is a euphemism for the band itself within this context because nowhere in the album is one single, solitary song sound like rock and roll or any of its direct derivatives. Elton John is the most rock and roll thing in this album and the song that borrows its name from the album’s name doesn’t present a measure of rock. Perhaps if Fall Out Boy had focused more on making the music more relevant to their message, I could get behind this album. Unless the title is ironic or sarcastic (and I can’t imagine Elton John would record a song with the band if it was a mere joke, it just seems like he would have had better songs to sing with his free time), I don’t think Sir Elton himself can save this musical direction.
While Fall Out Boy has managed to make themselves somewhat relevant in a world that had no problems moving on after their hiatus, their newly-declared adoration for rock and roll is overshadowed by an undeniably pop-influenced album. I’m all for FOB blending pop and guitars to make good music, but the message is lost in translation here. If only we could just tempt System of a Down to leave their hiatus…
Notable tracks: “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up,” “The Phoenix,” “Rat a Tat,” “Save Rock and Roll”