Review:: Save Rock and Roll | Fall Out Boy
Disclaimer: there’s a very good chance that this will be a very long-winded, emotional, reminiscent rant. But there’s a review scattered here somewhere, bear with me.
November 2009: I was four months out of high school and settling into my first year of college. I was eighteen and bursting with all of the angst of my fourteen-year-old self. I was still fully engulfed in my pop-punk phase.
Throughout high school, Fall Out Boy was one of my havens - a band for rainy days, songs to sing in the shower, albums to warm up to before soccer games and track meets, the soundtrack to countless days and nights; a group of kids from Chicago who matured as we did. I grew up with their music, and it grew as I did. And then it stopped.
It’s kind of cool now that I think about it. I was three months into school when the band announced their hiatus back in ’09. And I’ve spent my college career with them as a memory, a ghost of music past, another notch in the list of bands I was thankful to have had the chance to see while they were around. And then February 2013 rolled around: three months, almost to the day, before graduation, and Fall Out Boy had announced their return. Balance.
Luckily for all of us and the car crash hearts we still hold within, they didn’t just limp back into the picture. While some reunions are filled with promises of tours and new material at some point in the future, Fall Out Boy swung for the fences – rather than the Take This to Your Grave 10-year anniversary people were expecting, they came back by ending the hiatus, releasing a new single, announcing a tour, festival and television performances, and a new album they had recorded in secrecy.
With Save Rock and Roll, Fall Out Boy pick up where they left off with Folie a Deux, continuing with the progression we saw way back when, while still maintaining their pop-punk roots.
The album kicks in with “The Phoenix,” a heavy, theatrical string-laced call to arms. This is not the same band we had three years ago. Yes, the lyrics are still trademark Pete Wentz and Patrick Stump’s voice is still undeniable and spot-on, but it’s a different end product. Like I said, progression. Along with lead single “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark,” we get a “This Ain’t a Scene”-like vibe, full of looped background chants and claps. The introductory two tracks are sort of wild cards: neither are the typical pop songs we would think to receive from Fall Out Boy, but rather they act as a bit of a pacifier, guiding us through their stylistic changes.
This may sound like I’m just letting the fact that they’ve released new music fog my vision, but believe it when I say that Save Rock and Roll features some of the band’s best moments of their career. “Where Did the Party Go?” is one of their catchiest to-date, with a chugging bassline and a repeated “na-na-na-na-” bridge that dares you to not bob your head and tap your feet. And while it is fun to dance along to, it unfortunately loses its luster as it dovetails into “Just One Yesterday,” a deep-vocalled, thumping duet between Patrick and Louisa Rose Allen of Foxes.
Midway through, an ending chorus drops into Allen aching “If I spill my guts, the world will never look at you the same way. / Now I’m here to give you all my love, so I can watch your face as I take it all away” as Stump chants through the background.
“Miss Missing You” is a stand-out, glorifying Stump’s vocals over a synthesized style of pop that we haven’t really seen from Fall Out Boy before, coupled with classic heartache lyrics “Sometimes before it gets better, the darkness gets bigger / the person that you’d take a bullet for is behind the trigger. / Oh we’re fading fast / I miss missing you now and then.”
The stomp-along “Young Volcanoes” is a tongue-in-cheek (at one point, literally) youth anthem, and is one of the closer things we have to an old-era Fall Out Boy track. Infectiously upbeat, it works like a buffer in between the sprinting “Death Valley” and “Rat-A-Tat,” giving a chance to catch our breath tempo-wise.
The latter of the two, I wish I could dislike. It kicks off with a hyperspeed-monologuing Courtney Love racing over Andy Hurley crashing his drumsticks together, Stump then shouting “Are you ready for another bad poem, one more off-key anthem;” traditional Wentz lyricism poking fun at his own pen. The “rat-a-tat” chant feels like Danger Days-era My Chemical Romance, while the chorus is absolute Fall Out Boy. Its speed and repetitive hooks make it seem like a short track, though it’s actually one of the longer on the album. And as a precursor to the finale, it works brilliantly – getting your heart racing before tearing it out.
The concluding title track is, in my opinion, the strongest all-around performance the group has ever written. Soft piano and a looped, pitch-heightened sample from “Chicago is So Two Years Ago” join a tribal drum before Stump enters. His range is impeccable, seamlessly transitioning between gentle swoons, gritty curses, and soaring falsettos, all supported by gang vocals about “not knowing when to quit.” The idea of endurance rings throughout: “Wherever I go, trouble seems to follow / Only plugged in to save rock and roll.”
It has never been a surprise to have stellar vocal work from Patrick Stump, but “Save Rock and Roll” is on another level. And, coupled with a guest spot by the master of piano-pop Sir Elton John, it’s almost unfair to have those two voices on the same track. As his contribution draws closer, the ambiance builds with orchestral strings and you know his entrance is near. In purest Elton John fashion, his original two lines hair-raisingly deliver before Stump rejoins.
More chants and gang vocals build up with a swirl of drums, strings and piano before calming into Elton chill-inducingly reiterating “You are what you love, not who loves you.” If there is one line to epitomize not only Save Rock and Roll, but Fall Out Boy as a whole, it’s this. With each album, they have had to manage to grow as artists while enduring the criticisms of growing up. But it doesn’t matter what others think.
Pressing play on this album took a lot for me, and it took as much out of me. But with a trembling hand, I did it. It feels like a lifetime since the last time we had heard from Fall Out Boy. And for some of us, I’m sure it is. Because we aren’t who we used to be. We’re phoenixes.
Save Rock and Roll will have people who dislike it. Hell, there will probably be people who write it off completely. But that’s the point. I remember reading about the process of when they were writing the album, and Elton John told them that the record needs to be titled what it is. He said that it will piss people off; he said that they need to piss people off. Longing for the days of two-and-a-half-minute pop-punk tracks, the closed-minded may not digest this very well. At first. But with each listen, those old parts of the band sneak their way out from the music. It isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t have to be. Save Rock and Roll gives us songs we can still sing until our throats are raw, we can dance until our ankles ache, we can share awkward first kisses with them playing in the background, we can let them move us just as they always have. People may call for the “old” Fall Out Boy, but we don’t need that. This album is the band we want – we want the progression, we want the maturation. We want the change, because it’s change for the better.
Total Runtime: 45 minutes
Release Date: April 16th, 2013
1. The Phoenix
2. My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)
3. Alone Together
4. Where Did The Party Go
5. Just One Yesterday (ft. Foxes)
6. The Mighty Fall (ft. Big Sean)
7. Miss Missing You
8. Death Valley
9. Young Volcanoes
10. Rat A Tat (ft. Courtney Love)
11. Save Rock and Roll (ft. Elton John)
Written By: Eric Riley