Reviewed by Emma Dean
Fall Out Boy have always danced to the beat of their own drum. They gave a voice to the nerdy, the unloved and were epitome of punk rock emo back in the day. Now after eight years, four albums and a three-year hiatus they have lost none of their charm. Like their previous work, ‘Save Rock And Roll’ is honest, heartfelt, catchy and boasts an eclectic mix of guest artists from Courtney Love to Elton John.
It’s not surprising that in an age of dubstep and Justin Bieber, the band decided to save good old rock and roll. On first listen it is abundantly clear that ‘Save Rock And Roll’ was written with no agenda – this isn’t a bad thing, but saying that they’re saving rock and roll is a complete overstatement as it turns out to be such a mixed bag of genres. But since rock and roll doesn’t have any rules I guess you could argue that point. Despite my ramblings, having the band back is fantastic and a little FOB is better than three years of silence.
The album opens with latest single ‘The Phoenix‘ a furious tirade of violins and Patrick Stump’s usual spectacular vocals. The song is quite sparse until the chorus, focussing on the drums and lyrics. The track is tight and catchy (and also currently the most played track on my iPhone).
‘My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)‘ is probably the closest to a dance track that Fall Out Boy has written. Dangerous and heavier than the first track, the song continues its vein of powerful drums with very quiet complementation from the guitars. ‘Alone Together’ is catchy and anthemic, complete with a child’s choir shouting alongside Stump during the chorus.
‘Where Did the Party Go?’ is funky and bass heavy. ‘Just One Yesterday’ features UK rising star Louisa Rose Allen, known to her fans as Foxes, and her soft yet powerful vocals perfectly compliment Stump’s. The next track jumps to the other end of the spectrum with guest vocalist rapper Big Sean in ‘The Mighty Fall’. This track is the perfect example of the band’s adaptability and curiosity as well as showcasing Stump’s incredible vocal range.
‘Miss Missing You’ is a fun track that harks back to classic 80’s rock – a theme that runs through FOB’s entire back catalogue. ‘Death Valley’ features some incredible, hard-hitting riffs and tentative moments. ‘Young Volcanoes’ has a Jason Mraz quality, but with their signature quirky lyrics – “…We’ll teach you how to make boys next door out of assholes.”
‘Rat A Tat’ brings the band together with another strong female vocalist in Courtney Love. It’s a powerful track, but as I’m not much a fan of Love’s I can’t help but think the song would be much better without her “radio announcer” additions.
Wrapping up with the title track ‘Save Rock And Roll’ is the most surprising collaboration of the album – Sir Elton John. Of course looking at John’s past collaborations it’s no surprise that he’s happy to work with all genre of musicians, but I’ll admit he was probably the last person I’d think of. The track begins with quiet piano and a quick snippet of lyrics from ‘Chicago Is So Two Years Ago’ from their first album ‘Take This To Your Grave.’ Stump carries the track, but John’s vocals break up the generations before coming together in a combination that shouldn’t work but does brilliantly.
I love that this album was a complete surprise – worked on in complete secrecy and without any expectations from their legions of dedicated fans. Whilst I realise that the band has always done their own thing, it must have been oddly freeing to truly go in whatever direction they wanted. There are definite highlights on this album that show why the band continues to soldier on, ‘The Phoenix’ and ‘Young Volcanoes’ in particular, but I don’t think that alone will save rock and roll. It’s a massive claim that doesn’t quite deliver, despite that the album doesn’t disappoint and is anything but boring – in fact it keeps you guessing all the way to the end. And that’s why I love these guys.