Sunday, July 07, 2013

More all over the place than rock and roll

album review

Never judge an album by its title… this one has little to do with the genre it professes to save...

Band: Fall Out Boy
Album: Save Rock and Roll

Failed solo outings and unsuccessful side projects have inspired many a hiatus to be cut short, differences put aside, and comebacks pursued, which is why Fall Out Boy's reformation doesn't come as much of a surprise. Between Patrick Stump's solo album and Pete Wentz's venture with his less than successful group Black Cards, all signs indicated that the emo-pop band's reunion was inevitable. Sure enough, after months of speculation, the group members confirmed in February this year that the band was back together, marking an end to their three year “indefinite hiatus”, and were already readying a new album.

This comeback record bears the ambitious tag of wanting to “save rock and roll” but apparently wants to do so through pop music.

Save Rock and Roll is a collection of slick and catchy tunes that picks up where Folie à Deux left off in 2008. Flavours of punk, R&B, hip hop, soul, disco, and even folk graze the songs, all diluted to fit in with the band's sonic spirit, with producer Butch Walker in charge of the genre blending set.

The urgency of 'The Phoenix' kicks off the record with force, and leads straight to the feisty first single, 'My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light 'Em Up)'. Then, for some reason, the band decides to takes its cues from dance and electropop on songs like the synthpop-ish 'Miss Missing You', the repetitive 'Alone Together', and the catchy 'Where Did the Party Go', all of which seem to channel Maroon 5.

A host of guest vocalists are on hand to add variety to the set. Foxes provides sublime harmonies for 'Just One Yesterday'; Big Sean contributes an unnecessary rap verse to 'The Mighty Fall'; Courtney Love makes a snarling appearance on the punk flavoured 'Rat a Tat'; while Elton John croons on the anthemic title track, the piano ballad 'Save Rock and Roll'. While these artists add some flavour to the collection, their contributions mostly feel like nothing more than random cameos, and Fall Out Boy remain distinctly in control of the sound.

But for all its supposed diversity, Save Rock and Roll never really seems new or innovative. The set feels like it is attempting to splice various familiar elements, and you can hear influences of different bands (like Panic! At The Disco, Maroon 5, The Killers, and even Train) that have already done this stuff over the last few years and have mostly done it more convincingly. Plus the generic, clichéd lyrics drowning in teen angst don't help the songs much either.

Few if any songs match the catchy intensity of their previous hits like 'This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race', and the general adherence to the commercial pop vibe makes Save Rock and Roll feel uninspired and overproduced. Whether the album's name is misleadingly or ironic remains unclear; for their sake, let's hope the title is tongue in cheek, because ultimately this album doesn't present Fall Out Boy as the saviours of rock and roll, but as the connoisseurs of unsubstantial and inconsequential but enjoyable pop music. 

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 7th July, 2013

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