By Brianne Johnson, Senior Arts Editor
Published April 19, 2013
One week after Fall Out Boy’s new LP streamed online, setting the web ablaze — and, with it, a pile of past albums torched by the band in hometown Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field — the fire refuses to fade as Save Rock and Roll, released Tuesday, burns in a searing ode to punk rock resurrection.
Fall Out Boy
Save Rock and Roll
With the screeching and squealing dramatics of an empire risen again, Fall Out Boy bursts into “The Phoenix” like a team of Trojans armed with guitars and the contagious anarchic spirit that drives one to preface every word with an impassioned expletive: “Fucking epic,” you whisper, fists clenched as your roommate burrows deeper into bed at 3:54 a.m., “like fucking rock ‘n’ roll chariots.”
Like FOB’s lyrics, you don’t know what this means, but it’s fucking epic.
As the first single gallops straight into its unapologetically snarling twin, “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up),” frontman Patrick Stump sails into Steven Tyler-esque shrills, only to barrel back down and spit through verses, demanding that the listener “burn everything you love / then burn the ashes.” This is no mere comeback — it’s a battle cry.
And these punk-rock warriors are no strangers to a catchy war chant, for every song — from the choral bellows of “Alone Together” and “The Mighty Fall” ’s riotous simmer, to the thumping and thrashing “Death Valley” — will echo in ears for days post-listen, like the lingering haze of the band’s discographic bonfire.
As the album charges forward, verses fueled by angst and sore throats settle, slowing FOB’s tirade to a saunter smoothed by R&B influences reminiscent of Stump’s 2011 solo album, Soul Punk. The group attempts to inject soul into the LP’s hammering heartbeat; however, even a small dose of such comparable lethargy can leave the lyrics stilted and the pace hiccuping, proven by missteps “Where Did the Party Go” and “Miss Missing You.” Lucky for FOB, even the dullest of lyrics can sharpen with the aid of a biting melody, and the songs are still, at worst, a welcome “roll” to the album’s rock.
And nothing — or no one — screams “rock” more than alt icon Courtney Love, whose raspy rambles reclaim the raw attitude of the genre in FOB’s bratty anthem, “Rat a Tat,” and the legendary Sir Elton John, whose voice soars over the band’s boyish chants in song “Save Rock and Roll,” in which the two generations of musicians unite for a grand, emotional swell of a finale. “I will defend the faith,” John and Stump roar, “Going down swinging / I will save the songs / the songs we’re singing.”
Like a protest and post-apocalyptic celebration, Save Rock and Roll begs the question: What needs saving? Or, more specifically, what can be saved?
Exploring themes of destruction and reconstruction through the revival of music, the resurrection of love and the rediscovery of oneself, Save Rock and Roll is the downfall and uprising of a band — and FOB wants you to join in on the cynical fun; go ahead, toss that copy of Infinity on High into the flames.
With tracks like “Young Volcanoes,” the group revels in its own destruction, bobbing heads to the playful, acoustic campfire jam as the city burns before them — a welcome image eight years since Stump crooned, “I swear I’d burn this city down to show you the light” in Under the Cork Tree’s “Sophomore Slump or Comeback of the Year.”
Sounds like Fall Out Boy has kept its promise: It’s hard to miss the light of a fire this fervid.