Critical Voices: Fall Out Boy, Save Rock and Roll

April 17, 2013

Bands returning from a long hiatus have a difficult choice to make. They can pay their oldest fans a service and return to their musical roots, or they can pursue a new sound. After ending a five-year break with the unexpected release of Save Rock and Roll, Fall Out Boy has proven that they’ve still got the creative spark needed to produce compelling, fresh material unlike anything they’ve done before.

Save Rock and Roll’s greatest achievement is its novel disregard for the restrictions of genres. Lead vocalist Patrick Stump belts out nearly every line with his characteristically cutting delivery, but the band ventures outside familiar territory by embracing electronica, from throbbing, electronic basslines to lighter techno-esque rhythms.

“The Phoenix” and “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light ‘Em Up),” the album’s singles and first two tracks, exemplify the band’s stylistic transition. “The Phoenix” begins with an urgent, symphonic intro which soon gives way to pounding drums, matching the lyrics’ striking cry for war. “My Songs Know” offers another heavy-handed chorus and is one of the few songs on the album to give the guitars a lead role.

Save Rock and Roll features several guest vocalists, whose contributions to the album are rather hit-or-miss. The backing vocals of Foxes on “Just One Yesterday” make this track the best on the album and create a trinity of noises, as Stump, Foxes, and the synth beat play off each other perfectly. Similarly, Elton John’s deep voice offers a nice contrast to Stump on the album’s title track. The inclusions of Big Sean and Courtney Love, on “The Mighty Fall” and “Rat a Tat,” respectively, seem tacked-on and distracting, in comparison.

It’s hard to tell if Fall Out Boy entitled their comeback album Save Rock and Roll out of their brand of self-aware humor, but it’s easy to hear that this record marks a new direction for the pop punk princes. Even if the angsty anthems of fond adolescent memories remain, they’re full of new maturity that doesn’t allow dwelling on the past.

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