I know what you're thinking. “Save Rock and Roll? Really, Fall Out Boy? Really?"
Fall Out Boy had the nerve to name their last album Save Rock and Roll. This headstrong stunt has certainly created a buzz in the music world, as critics try to decipher whether there may be some strategy behind the arrogance, if it's supposed to be ironic in some way, or if Patrick Stump and the gang are just complete self-righteous morons. According to the AV Club, the album's title is “so easy to mock that there [is] no sport in doing so.” I guess that counts as strategy.
Aside from its name, Save Rock and Roll doesn't have much to do with rock and roll. Songwriting started when singer Patrick Stump and bassist Pete Wentz began collaborating in early 2012 after a hiatus of nearly four years. Fast forward to February 4 of this year, and lead single “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light 'Em Up)” hit number two on iTunes just hours after its release. In addition to claiming that songs may or may not be sentient beings, “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” laid the foundation for an album sure to be remembered as something that most definitely did not save rock and roll.
As the band's fifth studio album, Save Rock and Roll has received mixed reviews, but one thing is clear: even with the broad range of attempts at genre-bending and numerous featured guest-artists throughout all the tracks, Fall Out Boy manages to stay utterly unoriginal. Hit Fix Music declares it “warmed up OneRepublic,” and Billboard describes it as “a bit of a bumpy ride,” while The Lantern calls it flat-out “a dying breath for Fall Out Boy.”
To sum it up, Save Rock and Roll is just forty minutes of superfluous and emotionally-unstable pop-punk.
The first track, “Phoenix,” clues you into what the rest of this “bumpy ride” is going to sound like. Boy band production, nondescript instrumental lines, and very, very loud singing and chanting and yelling (but mostly yelling). The song begins with a thumping stadium-rock kick drum and evolves into a fist-pumping anthem, with each consecutive track following this hook-centered formula. The powerful vocals are the most admirable part of the whole thing; Stump proves his dynamic range with clear falsetto and teenager-worthy frustration in every note. In “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark,” Stump's soaring high notes take on a classic rock quality akin to Kiss.
But after these high notes, the rockiness of the album abruptly halts. As I listened, I waited for a guitar solo. If this album was really going to save rock and roll, there needed to be a guitar solo somewhere in the mix, I thought. Well, I waited... and waited, and waited, to no avail. In fact, there's barely any prominent guitar at all, despite a few subtle licks that seem borrowed from James Bond.
The composition behind the drums and bass isn't any better. Mediocre backing parts at best. By the fifth track I felt like I'd heard five of the same song, over and over again. Talk about lame and redundant songwriting. As Stump screamed depressing lyrics in my ears, I had the urge to scream back, “You're professional musicians, and this is the best you could come up with?!”
By the end of the album, I was fed up. From the very first chorus I gathered that Save Rock and Roll was not, in fact, anything like rock and roll. It sacrifices true genre-bending in favor of hooking tweens with ridiculously cheesy melodies and cliché lyrics. If anything, this album should have been titled: Save Shamelessly Juvenile Pop-Punk.