After announcing that they would be taking an indefinite hiatus in November 2009, few would have expected to see the return of Fall Out Boy so soon. Yet, just under two and a half years later, the pop punk band are back with their fifth studio album, Save Rock And Roll. Unsurprisingly, the four-piece’s return was greeted with essentially the same reaction that they have received throughout most of their career: both excitement and derision.
Fall Out Boy have always had a passionate fanbase, but as much as they are adored by fans, they have also attracted a lot of vitriol over the years. A lot of the hate that was directed their way was due to their association with ‘emo’ teens, as well as the fact that they were pretty successful during the mid-to-late 2000s. However, despite their ability to polarise opinion, Fall Out Boy were also damn good at writing extravagant and catchy songs.
While many would have laughed dismissively at the title Save Rock And Roll when it was announced – even the band admitted it was somewhat tongue-and-cheek – Fall Out Boy’s first single from the album, My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up), demonstrated exactly what they bring to the table. The band’s penchant for long song titles aside, it was as anthemic and audacious as they come, with Patrick Stump’s distinctive vocal combining with a sprawling guitar riff and hip-hop inflected beats for maximum effect.
Like many of Fall Out Boy’s previous singles, My Songs Know… showed that while the band may not necessarily be saving rock anytime soon, they could certainly bring an element of fun to it. This sense of enjoyment is something that continues throughout Save Rock And Roll, as shown by the thrilling opener The Phoenix. The song kicks the album off with an intro that sounds very much like Plan B’s brilliantly tense Ill Manors, before moving into a muscular and energetic chorus.
Yet after the opening two tracks, the album becomes more and more pop-friendly – with very mixed results. The Mighty Fall, which features a rather cringeworthy rap from Big Sean, is understandably a bit chaotic and unfocused, with very little holding it together other than Stamp’s yelping vocals. It’s followed by Miss Missing You, which sees Fall Out Boy take a completely different direction altogether. The song is punctuated by a throbbing synth-line, as Stamp reflects on another lost love.
Fall Out Boy may have had fun while making Save Rock and Roll, but the album often sounds like a combination of many different ideas, rather than one complete record. Alone Together sees all the aggression and direction of the opening songs disappear into what is essentially a passable pop song. “I don’t know where you’re going but do you have room for one more troubled soul,” Stump wonders, over a pedestrian guitar riff. Elsewhere, Where Did the Party Go is a fairly forgettable mid-tempo track, while the less said about Courtney Love’s snarling appearance on Rat A Tat the better.
The anthemic title track is an improvement – despite Elton John’s cameo surprisingly adding very little – but for an album that initially offered so much promise, Save Rock And Roll is ultimately disappointing. There is nothing nearly as catchy as Dance, Dance or as adventurous as This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race on the album, while the band also seem to lack the urgency that made them so successful in the first place. Save Rock And Roll is not only Fall Out Boy’s softest album yet, it is also their least memorable.