Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Album Review: Save Rock and Roll


Five years after the release of their previous album, Folie a Deux, Fall Out Boy is back with their fifth album, Save Rock and Roll. Previous to the release of the album, the song "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light 'Em Up)" was released as a single.

1. The Phoenix
Save Rock and Roll opens with a bang with "The Phoenix". Starting with an quick theme in the strings that returns, this song is a very good opening track to the album. The chorus is where the song really shines, with a four-on-the-floor drum beat and almost screaming vocals compounded with loud guitars and some synths. The vocal line in the chorus hovers around one quite high note which adds to its catchiness, as well as the memorable lyric "I'm gonna change you like a remix / Then I'll raise you like a phoenix". There is a definite feel of a new beginning with "The Phoenix", with lead singer Patrick Stump repeatedly singing "Put on your war paint". This being Fall Out Boy's first album in five years, "The Phoenix" starts the show off on the right foot with its loud vocals and drums which are a common element throughout the album, as well as a slight dance music feel.
Rating: 4/5

2. My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)
It wouldn't be a proper Fall Out Boy album without at least one song with a really long name. After all, we are talking about the same band that has song titles like "I'm Like a Lawyer With The Way I'm Always Trying to Get You Off (Me & You)" and "A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More 'Touch Me'". "My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)" was the first, and is to the best of my knowledge currently the only single from the album. This song is overall more quiet and reserved than "The Phoenix" but that doesn't make it any worse; in fact, I like this song a little bit better than the previous one. The chorus is even catchier than that of "The Phoenix" with the repeated lyric "So light 'em up" and the really high-pitched "I'm on fire". The drums overall have a half-time feel to them, almost like a stomp-clap rhythm. "Light Em Up" relies much less on synths and strings and more on guitar and drums, and was a good song to release as the first single.
Rating: 4.5/5

3. Alone Together
"Alone Together" sounds very much like a modern Maroon 5 song. After a quiet intro that reminds me of "Daylight", the guitar and drums join in suddenly. The vocals are sung quickly covering a wide range of pitches. During the choruses especially, there is a certain arena rock feel to this song with some crowd-sung lyrics and synth chords underneath the drums and guitars. Also, "Alone Together" highlights another technique that Fall Out Boy uses quite frequently in the album, that of digitally altered vocals. There is no Auto-Tune here (thankfully) but certain vocal fragments are clipped and repeated in certain areas. This technique is used throughout the entire album, giving the songs a slight manufactured feel to them.
Rating: 3.5/5

4. Where Did The Party Go
"Where Did The Party Go" opens with a bass riff and "na na na" lyrics. As the title suggests, there is a slight party feel to the song, especially in the chorus, with crowd-sung lyrics. The chorus also heavily uses synths as  the main form of accompaniment, slightly reminding me of MGMT. The drums are still loud and prominent, but the guitar plays a more reserved role in the song, generally just mimicking the bass. The song isn't necessarily bad but it definitely is styled more toward pop than rock, so it's not one of my favorites off of the album.
Rating: 3/5

5. Just One Yesterday
As you can probably guess from the title, "Just One Yesterday" is based around the cliche "I'd give up all of my tomorrows for just one yesterday". The beginning of the song reminds me of Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" with just a simple bass drum beat and bass compounded with low-pitched vocals. The song features the singer Foxes, who is best known for collaborating with Zedd on the track "Clarity". Foxes definitely adds a lot to the song, making the song more enjoyable than the overly used cliche around which the song revolves. The song is overall pretty simple, not relying on overly processed synths but relying more on the bass and the generic minor rock chord progression. I enjoy this song more than "Where Did The Party Go" if only for Foxes' vocals, but overall the song is relatively weak.
Rating: 3.5/5

6. The Mighty Fall
"The Mighty Fall" could almost be considered rap rock, with a basic guitar riff being repeated throughout most of the song. The song features rapper Big Sean, contributing to its rap style in both vocals and instrumentation. I'm not a huge fan of rap, so I'm not a real fan of this track either. Stump sings two verses in a rap-singing style, and Big Sean raps one verse with the same instrumentation as Stump's verses. The choruses feature almost exclusively the lyrics "How the mighty fall", so they are repeated quite frequently. "The Mighty Fall" is one of the weakest tracks on the album for me, but that could just be because I don't really like rap that much.
Rating: 2.5/5

7. Miss Missing You
From the opening of "Miss Missing You", you can tell that the song is heavily reliant upon synths. This song also has a dance music feel in the chorus with a repeated vocal melody and four-on-the-floor drums. "Miss Missing You" is pretty simple, using a basic chord progression throughout the chorus. The drums, which are one of the highlights of the album, take a very reserved role in this song, contributing the electronic feel. Even though the song is not the shortest on the album, it feels very short, probably due to the simplicity of the song.
Rating: 3/5

8. Death Valley
"Death Valley" also has a dance feel to the song, perhaps the most out of any song on the album. The bass drum is much louder than any previous song. The acoustic guitar in the verses in the same style as "Good Feeling", and the chord progression overall is very simple. There is a definite feeling of increased bass in the song, and this culminates in the bridge after the second chorus when a dubstep-style bass appears, reminiscent of Alex Clare's "Too Close", which is supplemented by digitally altered vocals. Personally, I feel that the dubstep break in the middle is very out of place; dubstep is definitely a fad that music is going through now, and I don't think that it fits Fall Out Boy's style very well.
Rating: 3/5

9. Young Volcanoes
I've seen this album been compared to Fun. (which I don't really agree with), and "Young Volcanoes" is most likely where this comparison came from. This song is very carefree and happy, with a slightly swung acoustic guitar in the verses. The chorus features this same acoustic guitar with vocals that I feel were possibly written to be catchy, and it succeeds in this goal. There is also synth bass underneath it all. I get the feeling that "Young Volcanoes" will be released as a single, and I think that it will do relatively well if only because it seems to be written for pop radio.
Rating: 3.5/5

10. Rat A Tat
"Rat A Tat" finally gets back to the punk side of Fall Out Boy's music, at least a little but. Although it still features synths, the tempo is much faster than anything else on the album. This song features Courtney Love as a guest vocalist, and her spoken lines contribute to the punk side of the song. However, the chorus halves the drum beat and goes back to the electronic, arena rock style. For some reason, "Rat A Tat" pulls it off better than the rest of the album, maybe because the vocals are still relatively quick. While not necessarily a highlight of the album, this song reminds the listener that Fall Out Boy is, at heart, a punk band and they can still rock.
Rating: 4/5

11. Save Rock and Roll
Just as the album opened well with "The Phoenix", the album ends well with the reflectively-themed "Save Rock and Roll", featuring pianist and vocalist extraordinaire Elton John. The song has probably the biggest arena rock feel of the album, with a definite stomp-clap rhythm. When Elton John starts singing in the second verse, the song gets infinitely better just by his presence. Even though Wikipedia tells me that Elton didn't co-write the song, his verse sounds like it could have been written by him; his voice fits very well in the song. Also, because he is featured, the song heavily relies on the piano. There are also some sampled vocals from one of Fall Out Boy's earliest albums, "Chicago Is So Two Years Ago" from their debut Take This to Your Grave (thanks, Wikipedia!). Strings end the song on a good note, fittingly ending the album. "Save Rock and Roll" is definitely my favorite song off of the album of the same name.
Rating: 5/5

My friend told me that this was a good album, but overall I was kind of disappointed by Save Rock and Roll. Given the title, I expected loud drums and guitars, definitive of rock music. While "The Phoenix" and "My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark" deliver on this promise, the songs become progressively more poppy as the album goes on, with "Death Valley" featuring overused dubstep bass and "Young Volcanoes" seeming to be written for pop radio. The featured artists of Foxes on "Just One Yesterday" and Elton John on the closing track overall add to the album's sound, and "Alone Together" and "Rat A Tat" are pleasant surprises. But for an album that proclaims rock in its title, Save Rock and Roll seems to trend toward the pop side of the spectrum of pop-rock.
Overall Rating: 7/10

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