A few months ago, Fall Out Boy, out of blue, announced the band was back together after taking a long hiatus. Not only were they back, they had recorded a new album and were releasing the first single from said album immediately.
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A lot has happened musically since the release of the quartet’s last studio album, 2008’s “Folie a Deux” —acts like Mumford & Sons, the Lumineers, Goyte and fun. have all come onto the scene, not to mention EDM — and in its own way, Fall Out Boy seems to have been influenced by each of them in ways both subtly and grand on new set, “Save Rock and Roll.”
The album opens with the title track, which, despite the nice presence of Elton John, sounds like warmed over OneRepublic. It’s needlessly anthemic with the message of “You are what you love, not who loves you,” landing flat. Things don’t get much better with the next track, “Rat A Tat,” a driving Paramore-like rocker featuring Courtney Love, who opens the track with “It’s Courtney, bitch,” which would be fine if it seemed like she was paying homage to Britney Spears, who got there first or was being ironic in some way, but it doesn’t seem that way. As lead singer Patrick Stump laments getting older, Love drops in with an occasional rap that adds nothing.
Luckily, things pick up from there (and other guests, Big Sean on “The Mighty Fall” and Foxes on “Just One Yesterday,” are better utilized). The main appeal of Fall Out Boy during its 2005-2008 first heyday was, primarily, Stump’s strong, supple, soaring vocals. His is a gloriously powerful voice that sometimes feels way underutilized here, but on “Death Valley,” another track about escaping death, he starts out strong, with industrial strength. The bouncy track evolves into slight dubstep refrain, which adds nothing, but certainly shows they were listening to music trends while they were away.
The other appeal was the cleverness of the song titles and lyrics on songs like “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down” and “This Ain’t A Scene, It’s an Arms Race,” and they regain that with the Maroon 5 pep of “Miss Missing You,” during which Stump sagely sings, “Sometimes the person you take the bullet for is behind the trigger,” and on first single, “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light 'Em Up.” Check out the 2Chainz remix, which works better than you’d think it should because it's so deliriously over the top. Stump and bassist Pete Wentz are facile, if not particularly inventive, songwriters who know how to bring in a wide array of sounds.
For all the clutter surrounding some of the album’s early tracks, the band strips it down with “Young Volcanos,” a largely acoustic, clap-along track. Its infectiousness grows with repeat listenings, though it may remain some too much of Train. You’ve got to salute a line like this though: “We will teach you how to make boys next door out of assholes.”
The pop punky “Alone Together” will remind fans the most of the pre-hiatus Fall Out Boy. Stump’s voice is surrounded by a military drum beat, stomps, and a rousing backing vocal, yet the song still doesn’t sound overly crowded. As with most of the songs, there’s an obsession with age and the fear that this is as good as it gets. “This is the road to ruin and we started at the end,” he sings.
Time will tell if fans missed Fall Out Boy or if that void has been filled. They still retain their energetic embrace of lots of different styles and, despite the fact that it’s possible to compare almost each song to one by another artist, Stump’s voice sets Fall Out Boy apart.