Album Reviews

Album Review: Fall Out Boy – Save Rock and Roll

on May 14, 2013, 12:01am
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There’s a rock proverb that goes: “It’s better to burn out than fade away.”  But is it really? We never knew. Neil Young? Def Leppard? Still touring. Still promising to burn out.

Following a lackluster response to 2008′s Folie a Deux,  Fall Out Boy seemed destined to fade away until vocalist Patrick Stump burned the band out instead. Disbanding stopped Fall Out Boy’s slow bleed to obscurity, but it also gambled its members’ careers. Pete Wentz, FOB’s bassist and all-around emo Renaissance man, faced fatherhood. Guitarist Joe Trohman and drummer Andrew Hurley went heavy metal with super-group The Damned Things. Vocalist Patrick Stump released a solo record, 2011’s Soul Punk, which, in a society that allows Justin Timberlake to cavort on NBC dressed as a Bee Gee, really deserved to do a lot better than it did. But fans were angry with the earnest frontman and for good reason: he broke up their favorite band.

Enter Save Rock and Roll, FOB’s triumphant return that really has nothing to do with rock and roll aside from a manifesto as self-congratulatory as “Damn Yankees” by Damn Yankees.

FOB are “The Phoenix”, a meaningful reference for anyone who made it through the fifth Harry Potter book.  This band knows that you can’t save rock ‘n’ roll without an army, so why not recruit Dumbledore’s? Especially for a comeback, the numbers are impressive: Save Rock and Roll debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart and sold 154,000 copies in its first week.

Stump growls “I’m on fire!”  on “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light ‘Em Up)”, the muscular first single ready for stadium pyrotechnics. The harmonies are taut as sailor’s knots and producer Butch Walker keeps the band sounding Top 40 fresh, save on “Just One Yesterday” where Stump rolls in Adele’s 2011 and on the Skrillex-lite  “Death Valley”, which is thirsty for guitars.

The band that came the closest to filling FOB’s void was .fun, which wasn’t lost on the emo-pop vets. Singer Nate Ruess’ sincerity and youth anthems fuel Save Rock And Roll, most obviously the sweeping “Young Volcanoes” (“We are wild / We’ve already won”), which even features the clapping and campfire percussion .fun borrowed from Simon and Garfunkel’s “Cecilia”.

The actual fun is found in the unlikely rap interludes by Big Sean and Courtney Love. On “The Mighty Fall”, Big Sean offers a pre-emptive “oh god…” to Stump’s spitfire flamboyance. Don’t miss the swipe at FOB’s former contemporary, Simple Plan: “I’m a dick, girl, I’m addicted to you.” “Rat-A-Tat”’s spoken-word stylings from Love are a cross between Perez Hilton and Patti Smith (“It’s Courtney, bitch!”). Here, Stump’s timing is perfecting: “Are you ready for another bad poem?”. Slow-whoop choruses and something about Saint Peter give it a fantastic sugar-we’re-going-down rush. Plus, it’s the best song Love’s been on in years. She’s not playing an instrument or singing, but maybe that makes more sense for her these days.

It’s unclear whether Fall Out Boy actually think they can save rock and roll, or if their tongues are planted in their cheek. Confounding this is a piano ballad featuring Elton John that’s reminiscent of his 1991 rendition of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” with George Michael. Michael couldn’t hold a candle in the wind to Stump’s voice, which probably only makes the angry rock purists angrier. “I cried tears you’ll never see,” Stump intones before casting forth a middle finger (“So fuck you, you can go cry me an ocean/ And leave me be”). Fleeting meltdowns like this punctuate Stump’s performances all the time. He may have the scope of a soul singer, but he also has the knee-jerk hysteria of a punk: a duality given special context in the presence of Elton John.

Like Stump, John has always been something of a rock n’ roll square. Melody, melodrama and the piano were no more hip in ’70s rock than they were in ’00s rock. As a result, both singers are continually sidelined into genres like easy listening or emo, so this duet is an especially galvanizing treat. If this is what rock and roll sounds like today, let the dogs of society howl.

Essential Tracks:  “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light ‘Em Up)”, “Rat-a-Tat”, and “The Might Fall”

11 comments

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Paul
May 14, 2013 at 5:17 am

Personally i liked your chart topping number one song ‘all i do is bitch’.

This is a good album, with good fun intentions, all you have done is bowled heavily into a bitch that just escalated out of control. Just cos you point out new aspects of mixing music (Timerlake, big Sean and Elton) does not mean its bad, this must mean you hate the blink 182 song ‘pretty little girl’. If the artist wrote it and fans are true to them they will like it!
You one of these people who said when artists like the prodigy released songs like hotride and voodoo people, and eminem when he released ‘the eminem show’. “His voice isn’t the same so i don’t like it”, “I dont like these new sounds cos there different”.

Change is a part of life!

This is a good album and you need to wind you neck in!

Do not listen to critics as there are only here to point out the negative aspect in everything!

Harriet
May 15, 2013 at 12:35 pm

I don’t agree with this critic, because they haven’t said much worth merit – they have just ranted. Admittedly, I do love Fall Out Boy and their new album, but that has not affected my opinion on this article. And, I am incredibly pedantic, so I stopped reading this with an open mind when the critic said “154,000 copies in it’s first week” where they put an apostrophe in the wrong place. A little thing, I realise, but I am pedantic.

So, this is why I don’t tend to read reviews of songs/ albums that I like, because I tend to rant – much like this critic has!

J
May 15, 2013 at 12:39 pm

I agree, there is no actualy critique here. And that Harry Potter reference is so contrived and twisted to fit, it’s painful. Yes the fifth Harry Potter book was “Order of the Phoenix” and the song is called “The Phoenix” but the two have nothing to do with each other and the DUmbledore’s Army reference makes no sense.

abunchofgibberish
May 15, 2013 at 1:31 pm

I count 4 instances where the title of the album is improperly capitalized. I can’t be surprised that the rest of the review is a rambling, ill-formed piece that feels like it should be in a gossip magazine rather than CoS.

Tyler Kaminsky
May 15, 2013 at 12:40 pm

I’m pretty sure this writer thinks that the phoenix originated from Harry Potter.

Shaylynn H.
May 21, 2013 at 9:14 am

I know, lol. That was the part that bugged me the most. I mean Fall Out Boy couldn’t possibly making a reference to coming out of the ashes and being reborn. That would be crazy.

Aggie
May 16, 2013 at 7:35 am

I can’t tell if she likes it or not.

Easton Doran
May 16, 2013 at 3:39 pm

how is this album even called rock and roll. 2 chains is in their fucking video

Daezy
June 2, 2013 at 8:11 pm

Ever heard of symbolism? 2Chainz is there to symbolize mainstream music killing Rock as a genre.

And you, critic, are taking the album title too seriously. Patrick said in an interview that they titled it ironically. They aren’t trying to save Rock, they’re just paving the way for someone else.

jadenomy
May 17, 2013 at 11:40 am

This the most annoying review I’ve ever read.

Daezy
June 11, 2013 at 12:31 pm