Released Apr. 16th on Island Records
Here’s where I lose what little punk cred I may have left: I like the new Fall Out Boy album. More than someone with my usual taste should. Thing is, I can respect a pop band that plays unabashedly popular music, and to my recollection Fall Out Boy have never acted like anything other than a pop group. On Save Rock and Roll they embrace that role even more openly than they did before, and it results in some thrilling moments.
When the band went on hiatus following the less-than-stellar reception to 2008’s Folie à Deux, it seemed inevitable that they’d return. What few expected, and what I’ll certainly give them credit for, is for them to return with a completed album already in-hand. In this age of social media, it’s downright commendable that a band as big as Fall Out Boy would record their comeback record entirely in secret; no tweets, no in-the-studio Instagrams, no leaks or teasers, no stupid lyric videos. Just Boom! Album. Kudos for that, boys, you’ve already got me on your side simply by forgoing the bullshit hype.
Along with the album’s announcement came a photo of the band members burning copies of their back catalog, a scene recreated by rapper 2 Chainz in the video for first single “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light ‘Em Up)”. It’s more than a symbolic gesture; for an album titled Save Rock and Roll, there’s very little of either to actually be found on the disc. This is a pop album first and foremost, evidenced right away when a full minute of opener “The Phoenix” goes by before a guitar is even heard; instead the album opens with a bombastic orchestra and thumping kick drum. “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” sounds like it belongs in a trailer for the next Step Up movie, but in a surprisingly good way. From there the album flirts with R&B (“Alone Together”), disco-like dance-pop (“Where Did the Party Go”), rap-rock (“The Mighty Fall”), synthpop (“Miss Missing You”), and even a flash of dubstep (“Death Valley”), to name just a few of its stylistic dalliances. Surprisingly, most of this genre-hopping and blending works in the band’s favor, though some instances are more successful than others. Through it all, big choruses and huge hooks remain the band’s weapons of choice.
Save Rock and Roll also boasts several guest stars, with mixed results. English singer Foxes duets with Patrick Stump on “Just One Yesterday”, and the effect definitely enhances the track’s vocals. Rapper Big Sean guests on “The Might Fall”, but his lines are rather cringeworthy (“I’m a dick, girl / Addicted to you” … Come on, man, Simple Plan used that pun 10 years ago and it was embarrassing then) and overshadowed by the music. Courtney Love shows up on “Rat a Tat”, which is actually my favorite song on the record even if her lyrics are kinda dumb and dated (“No thesis existed for burning cities down at such a rampant rate / No graphics and no fucking PowerPoint presentation / So they just DIY’d that shit and built their own bombs”). Still, she can’t ruin the propulsive, guitar-driven rock of the track. The biggest names come on the closing title track, when none other than Sir Elton John and the London Symphony Orchestra show up to play and sing through the piano-ballad send-up. The song sums up the band’s mission statement for this record: “I will defend the faith / Going down swinging / I will save the songs / The songs we’re singing”.
Save Rock and Roll may fail at accomplishing its titular conceit, but it’s still a fun ride. And if I’m not curmudgeonly enough to dismiss it, then you shouldn’t be either.
Fall Out Boy are apparently filming music videos for every song on the album, forming a story called The Young Blood Chronicles. Presented below, for your consideration, are the first 6 installments.