Fall Out Boy – Save Rock and Roll
Record Label: Island Records
Release Date: April 16th 2013
It’s no surprise to many people that Illinois pop-rock/pop-punk four-piece Fall Out Boy is my favorite band, so naturally, when the band announced their return to music, I was very ecstatic. Well, their return to music was a rather interesting one, just because it wasn’t very subtle, in all honesty. There were rumors flying for the past five years, but there were a few interesting hints here and there that caught peoples’ attention. Long story short, the band is back, and they announced a new record to go along with their reunion. Before that, however, they released a couple of singles from the record. First single “My Songs Know What You Did In the Dark (Light Em Up)” was very mixed among fans; I enjoyed the song and I thought it was a great comeback single, because it has a monster of a hook, and it progresses the sound that they had on fourth record Folie a Deux, which was much more pop-rock with R&B/soul traces. Since the band has become much more rooted in pop, R&B, soul, etc, they’ve also been met with a lot of backlash, which I don’t quite understand, because it’s not a surprise that they’ve had a rather poppy sound. Aside from that, plenty of fans and critics alike have come to embrace their more “mainstream” or accessible sound for the better, because that’s truly what it is. I’m one of the fans who really enjoy their “poppier” records, because there’s more to take from those records, unlike their couple records, which were deeply rooted in pop-punk and were very straightforward. They’re enjoyable albums, but there wasn’t much to take from them. Now that the band themselves have gotten older, their sound has also changed a lot, and it’s no surprise that their sound would change even more with fifth record Save Rock and Roll. The title alone is a very bold claim to make, and the question I’ll be teasing throughout this review is simple – does the band succeed in that claim? Do they truly save rock and roll? To answer this question, we need to look at the record itself, but we also need to look at the band itself and their comeback as a whole.
Fall Out Boy’s comeback was a rather obnoxious one, because they kind of came back with a bang, so to speak. Compare that to an artist like Justin Timberlake, or the band Paramore, who also released a record a week prior. All three bands/artists had rather different comebacks with different records as a result, but one thing is for certain – all three of them released the most “mature” record of their careers thus far. All three records really showcase their maturity as people and artists. Justin Timberlake came back rather subtly, teasing an announcement through a YouTube video, while Paramore didn’t go away at all, but just focused on themselves for the last four years. Fall Out Boy, on the other hand, is very interesting, just because they’re one of the few “rock” bands that the mainstream consensus really cares about, aside from a band like Paramore, whose new record debuted at no. one this week on the Billboard charts. Now that’s a great feat all in itself, so will Fall Out Boy do the same, or even better? Either way, it says something when thousands of people were excited that Fall Out Boy were returning, and for good reason. This is a band that a lot of people really connected with, whether it was for Patrick Stump’s soulful vocals, or bassist Pete Wentz’s sharp tongue, and while most of these people are my age (late teens or early 20s), the nostalgia still lives on. However, as I mentioned earlier on, some of these fans are way too nostalgia, and really don’t understand that bands do progress forward. Save Rock and Roll is easily Fall Out Boy’s “poppiest” record to date, so it’s understandable why people would be wary of their claim to save rock and roll, but before we truly answer that question, let’s dive into the record itself, shall we?
The record begins with an interesting one-two punch, “The Phoenix,” and “My Songs,” which were the first two singles. I didn’t mention the former, because I figured I’d just mention it here. In all honesty, I wish the band would’ve used this song as their “comeback” song, mainly because of the sound and lyrics. This is one of the best songs in the band’s catalogue, because it deals with change, and rising from the ashes, like a phoenix. The band is referencing themselves throughout this song, with lyrics like, “Wearing our vintage misery / No, I think it looked a little better on me / I'm gonna change you like a remix / Then I'll raise you like a phoenix.” This song is easily the superior of the two singles, despite “My Songs” being a very catchy and fast-paced track. “The Phoenix” shows off more of their progression as well. Not to mention, vocalist/guitarist Patrick Stump absolutely kills it, but then again, it’s no surprise to say that Stump kills it on EVERY track. His vocals get better with every record, and this one is certainly one exception. Lyrically, Pete Wentz contributes his trademarked sharp-tongued and clever lyrics throughout the record, and not once, do they disappoint. In fact, I would go as far as to say those are the best parts of this record. If you love Patrick’s voice, and Pete’s lyrics, you’ll love this record. However, that’s not all that I personally enjoy. I digress, so let’s move onto “My Songs.” This song has a very catchy hook, and is rather “in-your-face,” and obnoxious. It’s a very odd choice for a lead single, but it’s still enjoyable. Sadly, though, this is one of the weakest tracks on the record, because it doesn’t really do much of anything, other than have a very catchy hook.
Third track “Alone Together” is another one of my favorite tracks, because the lyrics are rather cutesy and sweet, which is strange for Fall Out Boy, because they’re not quite known for having “love” songs. This is probably the closest thing to a love song that I’ve ever heard them do, but it’s a very bittersweet song about being alone with someone you love and attempting to stay young forever by never letting go of those feelings you had when you first fell in love. This song could easily be a summer anthem for many people, including myself. On the flipside, fourth track “Where Did the Party Go” follows the same path as “My Songs.” It’s rather forgettable, albeit that it’s very catchy, and also manages to use the word “backrub” in a song without sounding awkward. It leads into the bluesy and soul-laden “Just One Yesterday (feat. Foxes),” which has the first of four guest vocalists on the record, and this one does very well. In all honesty, I’d be willing to get through “Where Did the Party Go” just to get through to this track. Don’t get me wrong, “Where Did the Party Go” is a very catchy and infectious track, but other than that, it doesn’t do much. Immediately following that is the more rock-oriented track “The Mighty Fall (feat. Big Sean).” This is the first point in the record that I immediately hit a snag. Out of everyone that Fall Out Boy could’ve put on a song, they chose Big Sean. You know, that guy who’s famous for the song “Dance (A$$)”? Yeah, that song is terrible, and it’s no surprise his appearance is insanely terrible as well. He’s very unnecessary and why he was on this song I have no idea. The song kills it without him. This song has one of the biggest and most ambitious hooks of the record, and during the bridge, Big Sean comes in for a very unnecessary verse that does absolutely nothing to the song.
After the one-two punch of acoustic/slower track “Miss Missing You” (which is another “love” song, but rather subtle), and catchy and danceable “Death Valley” comes ninth track and third single “Young Volcanoes.” This is another acoustic track, but it’s a great little breezy track that’s surely to be another summer anthem, mainly from lyrics like, “We are wild; we are like young volcanoes.” Some of the lyrics on this record seem to talk about being young and staying young, even if you’re growing up and getting older. This track is nice, because tenth track “Rat a Tat” is one of the, well, strangest tracks on the record. It features Courtney Love, and she’s the other very unnecessary guest vocalist on this record. She’s terrible, to be totally honest. Like Big Sean, there is no reason for her to be here, but she exists on the song, and that’s that. Her guest appearance is bit more than a verse; she contributes a couple verses, actually, including a very endearing “It’s Courtney, bitch” in the beginning of the song. That’s definitely nice, I said with very heavy sarcasm. Aside from her contributions, which have nonsensical lyrics, the song is very cool, especially with the chanted vocals of “rat a tat tat” which kind of is the “hook” of the song, really. However, my absolute favorite track on the record is the last track, which is the title track. This song features Elton John and really brings the theme of the record together. Sir Elton John absolutely kills it here with Patrick, and in fact, it’s almost like a little duet. This song has Elton John written all over it with his signature piano. In a way, this song really reminds me of “What a Catch, Donnie” from Fall Out Boy’s 2008 record Folie a Deux, so it’s a very great way to end the record.
Now that we’ve reached the end of the record, let’s go back to the question that I asked at the beginning of the review – do Fall Out Boy succeed in saving rock and roll? Well, yes, and no. In terms of saving their career, they definitely succeed, because this is a wonderful record, whether or not you’re comparing it next to their other records. Of course, a comparison is going to be inevitable, but as a standalone record, this record is fantastic for what it is. While I don’t think they truly saved the whole entire genre of rock and roll, they saved rock and roll from being extinct on the mainstream charts, along with a few other bands. If there are a couple of things I can truly take from this record, it’s that Fall Out Boy are back and aren’t going anywhere at all, and that Patrick Stump has an ear for very catchy hooks, because that’s ultimately what this record is full of. It may not be a straightforward “rock” record, but they do succeed in saving the genre in one aspect, which is making sure that it doesn’t go completely extinct in the publics’ eyes and ears. Well done, Fall Out Boy. My favorite band is back, and I couldn’t be happier.