Fall Out Boy Saves Music (Kind of)

Fall Out Boy has returned to save rock and roll. I’m not quite sure they saved the genre, but they certainly helped it.

Save Rock and Roll starts off with the strong, anthem-like “Phoenix.” The fast paced song says “I’m gonna change you like a remix/Then I’ll raise you like a phoenix.” I can’t help but assume that they’re talking about the genre of rock and roll. Granted, Fall Out Boy lyrics are sometimes harder to decipher than the New York Times crossword puzzle, but it seems likely. The song is a great rock song, but that doesn’t mean that this album is full of great rock songs.

Most of the songs lean much more towards pop-punk than rock and roll. This isn’t that surprising because Fall Out Boy came in a wave of pop-punk and emo-pop bands that rose to fame in the early 2000s.

“Alone Together,” “Where Did the Party Go?” and “Miss Missing You” all use heavy synthesizers that scream pop radio. “Alone Together” is a track that could have been cut from the album. It’s weak in comparison to the other songs. The chorus isn’t as catchy, the lyrics aren’t as strong and it feels just a little generic. Fall Out Boy songs tend to unmistakably belong to Fall Out Boy. “Alone Together” could be anyone’s song.

“Where Did the Party Go?” and “Miss Missing You” have a pop sound, but they’re good. They are catchy and will probably end up as Top 40 songs. The great songs, however, don’t come until the latter half of the album.

“Death Valley” is a great track with really cool guitar licks. Stump sings, “I want the guts and glory baby /This town is wasted and alone/But we are alive/Here in death valley.” It’s a pretty typical track about embracing life while you have it, but it has an infectious quality that makes it hard to stay in your seat.

“Young Volcanoes” is a track that’s a bit calmer. They trade in the loud electric guitars for an acoustic, and it has a sort of sing-a-long feel to it. It sounds kind of similar to Imagine Dragon’s “On Top of the World.”

Fall Out Boy brought in a lot of artists to collaborate with on this album. Behind the scenes are producers like Butch Walker (Taylor Swift, Avril Lavigne) and John Hill (Santigold, Pink), but they also have a crazy selection of featured artists.

Big Sean appears half way through the album on “The Mighty Fall.” It’s catchy the first couple times, but after a few listens, it feels stale and repetitive. Fall Out Boy’s lyrics are certainly unique to them. Patrick Stump sings “It’s getting clear/You’ll never coming clean/So let me lock you up inside and swallow, swallow the key.”

The rapper follows with “Sometimes I swear, I need a day just for me to lay/With some T and A, but the way we, the way we is do deeper.” It just doesn’t mesh. Big Sean doesn’t feel as angry or hurt as Fall Out Boy, not to mention the differences in lyrical style. It feels forced. I’m all for collaborations and genre crossovers, but let it happen naturally. Don’t cut and paste your completely different styles together hoping that it will work.

The collaborations on the album are unexpected, to say the least. Courtney Love, widow of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and lead singer of Hole, co-wrote and sang on “Rat A Tat.” This partnership feels so much more natural. If you’re doing an album to save rock and roll, using one of the biggest females from the grunge era is smart. Aside from her unfortunate Britney Spears reference (“It’s Courtney, bitch!”), Love is actually a great match for Fall Out Boy. They both have an angst-ridden, slightly anarchist view that makes their music blend well on this track.

Foxes was my favorite collaborator, though. She’s the least known of all the featured guest artists. The British singer doesn’t even have a full length album out. However, “Just One Yesterday” feels like Fall Out Boy. Foxes only enhances the song.

Ironically, the song is set up to sound as though she and Stump are enemies. Stump sings, “Find yourself a new gig, this town isn’t big enough for the two of us.” Foxes comes back with “If I spilled my guts/The world would never look at you the same way.” It’s super dramatic, but it doesn’t feel overdone. The hook is killer, and the chorus is wonderfully catchy.

In the album’s final titular track, Sir Elton John assists the band. The song, literally about keeping rock and roll music alive, is a good song. Stump and John sing together, “I will defend the faith, going down swinging/I will save the songs that we can’t stop singing.”

It’s surprising and feels a bit different from the rest of the album. It’s the only piano driven track, but what else would you expect on an Elton John song? I could have done without the computerized voice that says “Until your breathings stops” repeatedly, but overall, it’s a strong track. While it might seem weird to save the Elton John collaboration for the very last song, it ends the album on a high note.

The question remains, did Fall Out Boy save rock and roll? Not really, but that probably wasn’t their goal. The album is a call to arms for kids in their garages to keep playing their guitars and jamming “until your breathing stops.” Either way, they did manage to produce a pretty great comeback album that’s definitely worth your ten bucks.

IMAGE TAKEN from fanart.com