Fall Out Boy have a spotty history. They broke the mainstream so any years ago when ‘From Under the Cork Tree’ became a single-driven smash hit, and then the band released a series of albums culminating in the grand and excessive emo/rock opera that nearly ended their career with how massive and sprawling it was. Not in a good way, of course. It seemed to represent the peak of a genre that died with little dignity.
But who cares about all that when the band was once so much FUN! Fortunately, they are back with a semblance of pride, The group's greatest achievement is they have managed to recapture a sensibility that was never expected of them. Save Rock and Roll does not save rock and roll. But it saves Fall Out Boy's career, which is more than can be said for most bands returning from a five year hiatus and a disliked swan song of an album (in this case, Folie a Deux).
Save Rock and Roll revisits gang chants, pop hooks simplified and tightly wrapped, and guest vocals that don't seem like silly cash-ins. Fall Out Boy needed that break, because they were becoming too big and too silly for their own good. This time around they equip Elton John which seems perfectly placed in the musical operatic title track. It recalls a bit of that bombatism that hurt their career, but it is done so much better here. Having the pop/piano legend Elton John on board never hurts (ask Eminem). The other worthwhile guest spot is Courtney Love, whose career seems wholly tuned to her raging off stage antics. Here she sings aggressively and slutty on Rat a Tat, and it makes for one of the most fun songs the band have recorded since Sugar. Gang chants work with brilliant excess.
As far as guest spots go, Big Sean drops a predictable rap verse with little charm on The Mighty Fall. It seems as if Fall Out Boy were ironically recalling their own position just a few years prior.
Miss Missing You is a rather simplified but chant worthy fearless little song. But the album highlight easily goes to album opener The Phoenix. It is a tantalizing assailing romp of epic proportions and finds Fall Out Boy returning from hiatus with all guns blazing. It is hard to not find some endearing charm and nostalgic attachment when the thumping bass drives the chorus down all the right roads.
The album gets a little sappy here and there. Girls will certainly find a lot to love in Alone Together, though its substance is minimal at best. Where Did the Party Go seems like a mid-level Folie song, unimpressive and repetitive. My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark hosts another rap inclusion in the collectively loathed 2 Chainz. It is a nice diversion, and musically reflects This Ain't a Scene from their previous smash ‘Infinity on High’, but its charm is short-lived and uninteresting.
Regardless of any nitpicky quips, Save Rock and Roll does everything it needs to do. It revitalizes Fall Out Boy's career to most of their now older fans. It brings back a sensible livability that was vacant from their studio-perfected and operatic efforts. It brings forward a stronger punk rock sensibility, and includes guest spots that make sense in the thematic shortsight of the album. In all, it is a grand success though it sputters here and there with lazy songs, and it is rather short, making only about 20 minutes of really good fun and 15 or so of "mehness" Save Rock and Roll is much more of a success than was probably ever expected. The songs that work absolutely soar, and the songs that don't are inoffensive at worst. There is a victory hidden here that deserves to be acknowledged. It isn't a grand statement, as it seems to say far less than Fall Out Boy probably intended. But it is a damn fun album, and from a pop/punk band who made a career from pop splendor Warped Tour stints, and music videos with deer antlers and electroshock therapy, Save Rock and Roll is plenty.