Fall Out Boy has taken a lot of flack for calling their new album “Save Rock and Roll.” In fact, the title combined with the actual sound of the album pretty much seems designed to draw comments from angry internet denizens screaming (paraphrasing many an amateur album review here) “THIS SUCKS IT’S NOT SAVING ROCK AND ROLL IT’S NOT EVEN ROCK AND ROLL WHY CAN’T YOU GUYS BE GOOD AGAIN?!?!”
The beauty of the internet is in the sharing of opinions, after all.
But in case anyone missed the tongue-in-cheek quality of the title, no, Fall Out Boy is not here to save rock and roll. And the message of the album isn’t that rock and roll needs saved.
Instead, it sounds more like rock and roll saved Fall Out Boy.
In 2009, FOB announced they were taking a hiatus. They wouldn’t tell fans how long it would last. They wouldn’t guarantee another album or tour. And, here’s the scary thing, they were telling the truth. After finishing up their whirlwind touring for Folie a Deux, the boys stopped being Fall Out Boy for a bit.
They all continued to make music with different projects and with vastly different sounds. They all also continued to have to announce the same thing about every two months or so on Twitter: “NO, FALL OUT BOY HAS NOT BROKEN UP.” And despite this, even a hardcore believer like me had started to refer to the band in the past tense.
Then, in February, the band announces their reunion. And they do not fuck around with it. This was not “Hey, we’re headed back into the studio!” and then maybe five years later we get an album (I’m looking at YOU, No Doubt), this was “Here’s our new single, our album drops in like two months.”
I’m establishing the background in this review, though I’m assuming you already KNOW this if you’re reading. But I think this is important to have in context with my claims about the ideas behind this album. Because I think the hiatus time definitely saved the individual members of the band and I think that’s something that won’t really be questioned.
But on a grander scale, Rock and Roll, and each band member’s chance to approach it from their own angle and then bring back something new and refreshed to the table, THAT saved Fall Out Boy.
Fall Out Boy has been doing this music thing since 2001. I’d like to ask all of you to consider how much you’ve changed since 2001. How you’ve grown, how you’ve changed, how you’ve re-invented yourself.
A band, as much as it is an idea, is also on a certain level a living entity that needs to be able to do that. It’s just constrained by the part where it’s an organism made up of OTHER sentient organisms who need to evolve and grow and change on their own.
This album isn’t the result of evolution. It is watching that evolution take place. It is the band trying to figure out what it is at this point. It is trial and error and survival of the fittest sound. And we might never know the outcome because evolution is an ongoing process.
So THAT’S why we get a vastly eclectic album. That’s why we go from the Maroon 5-ish “Where Did the Party Go” to “The Mighty Fall” which opens with what sounds like a sample from a Danny Elfman soundtrack and then goes into a heavy beat that features a guest spot from Big Sean to “Rat a Tat” which, I’m putting this in all caps, so be warned, FEATURES SPOKEN WORD SECTIONS BY COURTNEY LOVE.
And it works as an album largely due to FoB’s attention to the flow. In fact, “Young Volcanoes,” a song I was largely underwhelmed with when it was leaked by the band, charms me due to its placement on the album. It’s sort of a fitting oasis in the middle of everything else, a chance to take a breath.
That said, this is an album that is going to upset and/or underwhelm a lot of people. I say that because I know, I’ve already seen those reactions and while I don’t agree with them or necessarily understand them, I do get it to a certain degree. While I’m not naive to the ways the mainstream music industry works, I have to feel like Pete Wentz is being genuine with statements like “we made this music for ourselves and no one else at the end of the day.” Because it sounds like the music a band makes for themselves, to figure themselves out and hopefully the rest of us will like it.