Review Summary: It's good to have them back...
Prior to their hiatus Fall Out Boy were in an uncomfortable position, they had almost become too big to handle. There was a time when you couldn’t be online and not see a picture of Fall Out Boy (or more specifically Pete Wentz). This worldwide recognition predictably led to a backlash that would forever hurt FOB’s music. Listeners were quick to lambast later releases (Folie a Deux) since it wasn’t an album full of Sugar We’re Going Down’s or Dance, Dance’s. FOB weren’t allowed to experiment with their sound without public vilification. It became too much for the band and they called an indefinite hiatus after Folie a Deux due to diverging musical taste and a general feeling of being “burnt out”. Ironically when the dust had settled and listeners believed FOB to be gone Folie a Deux began to earn its rightful plaudits and is now thought of as one of the best FOB albums.
So with the world FOB-less for a few years it is now prime time for them to return and be judged solely on their music. This is just as well since this album marks quite a departure from their previous albums as it is definitely their most pop album to date. Lead single “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark” is a perfect example. Immediately a new approach that leans more towards electronics is apparent as well as and proves to be indicative of the album as a whole. Synths play a large part in the album (Miss Missing You being the most obvious) as do group chants (heard on most tracks). They also aim for radio play with a track like Young Volcanoes which comes complete with handclaps, sounding like FOB writing a Train song. Which whilst on paper sounds disastrous actually works well within the album.
Lyrically the album has changed direction as well, Pete Wentz has for the most part stopped writing in clichés and frat-boy wordplay and instead opts for basic (yet catchy) lyrics such as on The Phoenix “I’m going to change you like a remix, then I’ll raise you like a phoenix” or more ambiguous lyrics such as on Just One Yesterday, “I thought of angels, choking on their halos, get them drunk on rose water.” This lyrical change is in keeping with their new sound and makes the album more accessible for the listener.
An area where this album shines is through its guest features. Nearly all of the guest artists vastly improve the songs they are included on. Most impressive is Just One Yesterday which features Foxes for back-up vocals and vocals over the final bridge. Patrick Stumps voice is perfectly complemented by Foxes and creates this idea that they are talking directly to one another. A more surprisingly effective collaboration is Courtney Love on the song Rat-a-tat. Whilst I am not the biggest Courtney Love fan she injects this song with some needed swagger from her opening “it’s Courtney bitch” to her unhinged rambling monologues. However, Fall Out Boy have fallen into the trap that countless others have found themselves in before; including a meaningless rap verse in one of their songs. Big Sean being included on this LP is the biggest mistake FOB make. There’s no clear reason for his guest spot (sure Stump has produced a few hip-hop songs before but still) and worse still is that his verse is lazy and doesn’t improve the song in any way.
The main thing that Save Rock and Roll has in its favour is how fun it sounds. Every song is massively sing-a-long-able and Patrick Stump can still create some of the catchiest hooks in music today. The album is not the saviour of rock and roll but that is, of course, the whole point of the title. FOB once again sound like they are creating the music they want to create and in doing so sound more energised than ever before.