While Fall Out Boy was on the dreaded hiatus and working on their own projects, I constantly swore up and down that the hiatus was going to be the best thing that ever happened to the band. I mean, it wasn’t like Blink-182. No one in the band was outright detesting the other and it wasn’t going to take a near death to get the band back on tour. It was just going to take time. Fall Out Boy just had to take some time off from Fall Out Boy, and they were going to come back stronger than ever.
I don’t think I anticipated how much they were going to knock the world off its feet when they returned though.
Back in February, Fall Out Boy not only announced the end of the hiatus, but a new album that they had recorded in secret with producer (and my personal hero) Butch Walker, a set of tour dates (see you June 2 at The Tabernacle!), and the first single ‘My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light ‘Em Up)’.
Now, when the fandom realized that the band had done this all in secret, some puzzle pieces from the past year began to make sense. Like Patrick’s post about why he was stepping back from his solo stuff. Oh, you sneaky, sneaky boys. I even saw Butch live while they were working on the album and I was none the wiser!
But it’s okay, because the end result of them recording an album with no expectations on them is an album that far exceeds my own.
When the band announced Save Rock and Roll, they said the album was different from anything they had ever done, but encapsulated what Fall Out Boy was in 2013. I can honestly say that’s probably the most accurate description of Save Rock and Roll. There are signatures of older Fall Out Boy here, like Pete Wentz’s classic wordplay and the mix of pop-punk and metal influences that drive the rhythm section. But it’s also obvious that the boys have had a chance to play a little more during the hiatus. There’s a groove on songs like ‘Where Did The Party Go’ and ‘Miss Missing You’ that calls back to the Minneapolis Sound influences of Patrick Stump’s solo album Soul Punk. The bass wobble on ‘Death Valley’ and the general feel of ‘Just One Yesterday’ remind me of Black Cards. The thrashing guitars and drums on ‘The Mighty Fall’ and ‘Rat A Tat’ make me want to give another listen to The Damned Things and With Knives after hearing Joe and Andy get to flex their musical muscles a little more. The biggest surprise though was getting to hear all the boys provide background vocal harmonies, which I assume came along with the help of Walker.
Still, even with all these changes, it doesn’t feel like the band is trying to escape who they are. It might be jarring to casual fans or people who only know the songs they’ve heard on the radio, but those who have followed the band and their activities through the hiatus will see that this is a natural evolution. If anything, getting to explore new sounds and working with a producer that reminded them how to act like a band after three years off has strengthened their sound.
It also doesn’t hurt that the guest spots on this record are spot on.
Since the days of Take This To Your Grave, Fall Out Boy has always managed to snag some great guests for their albums. From friends like William Beckett and Brendon Urie to major stars like Elvis Costello, Debbie Harry, and Jay-Z. They somehow managed to take the cake with Save Rock and Roll. There is the relative unknown of British singer Foxes, who offers beautiful ethereal vocals on ‘Just One Yesterday’. Rapper Big Sean drops a line on ‘The Mighty Fall’ that mixes extremely well with Wentz’s lyrics and keeps the flow of the song perfectly.
But really, it’s about those last two tracks.
‘Rat A Tat’ is a driving track that has grown on me the more I’ve heard it and makes me extremely excited to open my windows and drive as soon as the pollen stops blowing its load. It features Courtney Love doing a speak-sing on the track that’s manic, beautiful, and fits the track perfectly. When the album was leaked by the band the week before the album, I seriously thought that her parts were parts Wentz had written for himself initially before they decided to include Love. So imagine my surprise when I learned that every part that Love sings was written by Love herself. Her style meshes with Wentz’s like peanut butter and chocolate, and it’s a shame that people are going to write off this track just because of a continuing hate on for Love.
‘Save Rock and Roll,’ the emotional title track, closes off the album in an epic way that only Fall Out Boy could do. It perfectly bookends the bombastic opener ‘The Phoenix’ and feels like the perfect in-house response to ‘What A Catch, Donnie’ from Folie a Deux. With gorgeous strings, the loop of ‘Chicago Is So Two Years Ago’ from Take This To Your Grave and the band singing “Oh no, we won’t go/Cause we don’t know how to quit,” the track assures the listener that Fall Out Boy isn’t going away again anytime soon. If ‘What A Catch, Donnie’ was about uncertainty, ‘Save Rock and Roll’ is about facing the future head on without forgetting what brought you here.
It doesn’t hurt that the track features an amazing vocal part from living legend and Fall Out Boy fan (I will never be over that) Sir Elton John. Hearing him sing alongside Patrick Stump while singing words written by Pete Wentz is so surreal, but amazing and just makes me cry even more. It feels like a decree from on high that Fall Out Boy is a part of an every evolving history of rock and roll. Genres change and it evolves with people who are willing to push the boundaries of the genre. Fall Out Boy wanted us to question what we consider ‘rock and roll’ with this album. Will they actually save rock and roll with their unique twists on the genre? It’s hard to say.
As many other reviewers have noticed before me though, I think this album certainly saved them.