There's an urgent flurry of cellos followed by drums as the album explodes into life. Loud and riveting, Patrick Stump's vocals start off in a rush of lyrics reminiscent of older Fall Out Boy tracks. Then as the chorus swells up with the music, he sings:
I'm gonna change you like a remix, then I'll raise you like a phoenix.
A fitting line and a fitting song title as well. 'Pheonix' is the very first track of Fall Out Boy's long awaited return to the music scene with their album 'Save Rock and Roll'. It's been four years since their last album 'Folie a Deux', and it was to the thunderous roar of fans' delight that they announced the end of their hiatus. Their rebirth is marked with a change in sound - while there are still instances of the Fall Out Boy I grew to love throughout my teens, their music is different now. Most notably, gone are the quirky song titles that have nothing to do with the lyrics (think 'Headfirst Slide into Cooperstown on a Bad Bet').
Phoenix' is followed by the punchy 'My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light 'Em Up)' which is also the lead single of the album. Within a few hours of its release, it catapulted straight to No. 2 on iTunes while the official music video on their YouTube channel has garnered more than 10 million views. These first two tracks are awesome driving songs, and it really got me revved up for the day.
Following that is 'Alone Together', toning down the fire a notch as the lyrics entice with staying "... young forever". 'Where Did the Party Go' carries a faint echo of their old 'Dance Dance', but now there's a sense of that old party fading away and leaving them "Ending it [the party] on the phone". Maybe the band is feeling the effects of time, that things are not the same as they used to be. There's a pattern here, especially as the next track (my favourite), 'Just One Yesterday' finds Stump belting out a bitter yet sentimental tune with British singer Foxes: "I want to teach you a lesson in the worst kind of way / Still I'd trade all my tomorrows for just one yesterday". It's a delicious track, but I wonder if the beginning drumbeat is meant to shadow that of a certain British songstress.
The tone changes once 'The Mighty Fall' begins with an eerie chanting 'la la la' accompanied by a grungy electric guitar. Then Big Sean slurs, "Oh God", and Stump growls into full swing. Featuring Big Sean here is an edge that works well for this gritty, minor key track. Then 'Miss Missing You' goes back to the theme of days gone by, of comparing the now and then: "The person you would take a bullet for is now behind the trigger".
The lyrics for most of their songs this time around are a lot more straightforward, and a lot of it has to do with change and a sense of times gone by. "Death Valley" is grim with its declaration of the inescapable: "We're gonna die / It's just a matter of time" while 'Young Volcanoes' breaks away from the shouting doom and gloom with a more upbeat attitude, with Stump chuckling to himself as he utters an obscenity.
A bit disappointed that it didn't come in the plastic casing.
The final two tracks are quite different from each other and I find myself much preferring the latter one to the former. 'Rat a Tat' featuring Courtney Love lives up to its title with Stump and Love spewing a rapid-fire barrage of words. The beginning of this reminds me a little of My Chemical Romance's Danger Days album, though that's as far as the resemblance goes. This is my least favourite track in the album.
Finally, the title track 'Save Rock and Roll' begins, backed by dramatic piano keys and violins and featuring none other than Sir Elton John himself. This is a fireworks show of a concert song, easily at home in the midst of a roaring crowd. This is one track I wouldn't miss seeing performed live on stage. Stump's and John's vocals complement each other beautifully with their combined cry of "No, no, wherever I go / Trouble seems to follow / I only plugged in to save rock and roll".
So does Fall Out Boy manage to save rock and roll? That's for the listener to decide for themselves. For me, while I love their progression and new sound, 'Folie a Deux' is still my favourite album of theirs. Even so, I've had 'Save Rock and Roll' on repeat for the past two days and I'm not getting bored of it yet.