Review Summary: An Ambitious album that, despite falling prey to some traps of modern pop music, is nonetheless an enjoyable listen. This isn't the Fall Out Boy you remember, but this new evolution proves they still have what it takes to compete at the top levels.
After the failed album "Folie a Deux" which led to Fall Out Boy breaking up, few thought they would ever see the band back on stage again. And to a certain degree, the pre-breakup Fall Out Boy still hasn't returned, despite releasing a new album and returning to touring. "Save Rock and Roll" may not be the Fall Out Boy many remember, but the band continues to evolve their sound with their latest, most ambitious release yet.
First and foremost, this is not a rock and roll album, it's pop. While several songs can be classified as pop rock, much of this album is pop or dance music infused with Fall Out Boy extravagencies. Though they have always changed their sound in between albums, this is the most drastic change yet, and will decide whether fans embrace the new Fall Out Boy, or mourn their death yet again.
"Save Rock and Roll" contains many enjoyable qualities that manage to redeem some of the blunders this album falls prey to. Choruses throughout the album are intelligently crafted, they're catchy, quick, and know when to quit. These are done in true Fall Out Boy fashion, backed by pounding drum beats, quick, harmonized guitar riffs, and various assortments of orchestral, choral and electronic backgrounds. Stump has clearly expanded his vocal abilities over the hiatus, reaching new heights (his hair-metal "screams" in My Songs Know...) and his powerful vocals breath new life into Fall Out Boy. Not only are the songs well executed, they're diverse, flowing from rock ballad, to classic Fall Out Boy, to radio-friendly acoustic songs. While all the songs have some similarities, they manage to be different enough that they aren't indistinguishable from one another.
With everything they do right, Fall Out Boy doesn't execute this album as well as they could have. They often rely far, far too heavily on backing choir vocals, electro-dance beats, and pop drum beats. These three things can be found in almost every song on the album, albeit some work phenomenally with the rest of the composition. Additionally, the guest vocals on this album by Foxes, Big Sean, Courtney Love, and even Elton John, fail to add much to the album. Big Sean's performance is particularly bad, featuring some truly terrible lyrics, like "sometimes I swear, I need a day just for me to lay with some T and A." While none of this breaks the album, the biggest misstep on this album is the all too frequent absence of guitar or drum parts.
Fall Out Boy has risen to stardom using rock drumming, fantastic vocals, creative guitar riffs, among other things, and shouldn't forgo that which constitutes the foundation of their sound. Finally, the last minute criticism I have (and it's small) is every now and then the lyrics are predictable. It may be that their previous releases simply had superb lyrics, but it seems throughout parts of the album the lyrics suffered some neglect, leading to repetition here and there.
This may not be the best Fall Out Boy album, but it's certainly not a bad album. On the contrary, it's thoroughly enjoyable, with the pros outweighing the cons of the album. The standout tracks on this album are "The Phoenix," "My Songs Know...," "Alone Together," "Death Valley," and "Young Volcanoes." For any Fall Out Boy fan this album should be a must buy, and for fans of bands such as The Killers, Panic! At The Disco, or even groups like Imagine Dragons, this would be an enjoyable listen. It may not be what you remember, but it's not the same, repackaged music of their pre-hiatus years, something any fan should cherish as the band begins their return to music.