By Jon Winkler
If you’re a fan of the band Fun and can’t wait for their new record, you’re in luck because Fall Out Boy is here to fill that void. Yes, the flagship band of the mid-2000s emo movement has returned after a four-year break dedicated to solo projects and bad decisions (like marrying Ashley Simpson). But they’re not here for just a reunion tour– they want their crown back.
Fall Out Boy wants to be the biggest band in the world, just as they were 6 years ago, when they were collaborating with Kanye West and John Mayer, while touring the world and leading the music scene.
They had a lot of company then, like We The Kings, Panic! At The Disco, My Chemical Romance and Paramore, who were either a clone of the band or even trumped them in style, musicianship, or sales at Hot Topic. Competition, substance abuse problems and the changing music scene took Fall Out Boy out of the game for a little while. Their members tried other music ventures, including an impressive but overlooked pop album from singer Patrick Stump. Nothing stuck, and so Stump and his songwriting partner, bassist Pete Wentz, regrouped and decided to go big or go home. But mostly, just go big.
“Save Rock And Roll” is Fall Out Boy’s biggest record by far. You would think this wasn’t even a Fall Out Boy record, but rather a record from some big label’s new band of producers, like Garbage for example.
Most of the songs are huge anthems with synthesizers, orchestras and sky-reaching vocals from Stump. In fact, Stump is the only indicator for fans that this is a Fall Out Boy record. He still has his signature yelp, and it’s in top form, from the opening track, “The Phoenix,” to the closing title track, “Save Rock and Roll,” where Stump holds his own alongside Elton John. “Alone Together” is a cute love song for all of the hopeful outcasts FOB has always connected to (I don’t know where you’re going/But do you got room for one more troubled soul.) “Where Did the Party Go” follows a bouncy rhythm and electronic sound, similar to the stuff on the new Paramore album. Courtney Love (for some weird reason) gets to rant in between verses of the jumpy “Rat a Tat.” FOB does go back to its roots on the album’s first single, “My Songs Know What You Did In the Dark (Light Em Up),” with a typical angst-ridden snipe in the lyrics.
But besides that, there is nothing that interesting about “Save Rock And Roll.” It’s meant to sound like a triumphant comeback, but it offers nothing interesting or surprising. FOB is either trying too hard or trying to copy someone else. They sound like they’re having no fun on tracks like “Death Valley” and “The Mighty Fall,” which features an annoying verse from Big Sean. “Just One Yesterday” is an enjoyable “We Are Young”-type song in the style of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” “Miss Missing You” has synths like New Order and it seems strange when Stump tries to come on to a girl with a line like, “So give me your filth/Make it rough/Let me let me trash your love.”
Producer Butch Walker tries to make this band sound bigger and more important than they really are, and the entire glossy backing to “Save Rock And Roll” does help make the band sound more alive. However, Guitarist Joseph Trohman is nearly drowned out by all the fancy production, while drummer Andrew Hurley hammers on the drums like Thor while forgetting he has a snare drum that’s perfectly useful.
Does the world need to take Fall Out Boy seriously? Of course not. Does “Save Rock And Roll” need to be taken seriously? Well, yes and no. Yes because it shows that Fall Out Boy is well past their days of eating Ramen in a van while sharing guy-liner. These guys are developing their chops and it’s commendable that they want to reach out to the world. “Save Rock And Roll” is a passable Fall Out Boy record and a fine pop album, but it sounds too much like a cry for credibility when their known traits in songs should earn them more than enough props. More of the rough, punk guitar that made their early songs like, “Sugar, We’re Goin Down,” “Dead On Arrival,” or “Dance, Dance,” would have been so much fun to listen to. The humor is gone too, which is dearly missed. It would’ve been really nice to hear what Fall Out Boy thinks of the new Warped generation, not the world’s problems. Maybe some post-divorce kiss-off from Pete Wentz would’ve been entertaining? Or Patrick Stump’s recent rants on Tumblr could be turned into a witty rail against the music industry (he owes us that much for trying to support Nickelback?)
Whether we like it or not, Fall Out Boy is back and rallying their troops to put on their war paint. “Save Rock And Roll” is a big, booming record that’s here to save no one but Fall Out Boy. Ok guys, you’re back and welcome to stay. So, what now?
Final Verdict: 3 out of 5 stars
Essential Tracks: Rat a Tat, Save Rock and Roll, Alone Together, Where Did the Party Go?
Ignore: Young Volcanoes, The Mighty Fall, Death Valley