It's been a year of comebacks and reunions, but Fall Out Boy have managed to transcend either label with their epic return to form. The band were arguably at the butt of every 'emo' joke when they decided to take a break in 2009, despite the fact that they were already working towards something genre-shifting and fabulous with their underrated 'last' album, Folie A Deux.
With little to no fanfare, the band spent their time working on new album Save Rock and Roll in secret - until they exploded back onto the scene with electrifying new song 'My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light 'Em Up)', tiny gigs and promises of an album and arena tour to follow.
The sense of enthusiasm shone through - from the way they were engaging to fans, to the fact that they just couldn't wait to share the album, moving the release date from 7 May, to 16 April, to streaming it on their website for fans to hear. And when a band are that excited for their album to be heard, it's contagious... so we just had to take a listen. Read our track-by-track review below
The first track on an album is always an important one, and never more so than in a situation like this. Fall Out Boy have been on hiatus for three years - which is especially long in the world of music, where careers can begin and end in that time - and this is their manifesto. And what a manifesto it is - because the band launch into 'The Phoenix' with no holds barred. Right from Patrick Stump alternating between a snarl and something altogether more croon-worthy, Fall Out Boy have no problem letting you know that they're back - and they're turning it up to 11.
The phoenix - and the idea of fire as a cleanse - is something prevalent through the album but the metaphor is at its most obvious here. Fall Out Boy have been reborn and, in 'The Phoenix', the rebirth takes the form of bulldozing any objections that you might have had. "Put on your warpaint," Stump sings, because you'll need it.
'My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light 'Em Up)'
This is the first song that Fall Out Boy shared with us from the new album, and it just gets better and better with every listen. Continuing the theme of fire - one of the more goose-bump inducing moments is Stump's intense delivery of "burn everything you love, then burn the ashes" - 'My Songs...' feels like a call to arms or, at the very least, a call to attention.
The track set the pace for what follows with the album - insane genre blurring, big choruses with even bigger hooks and a natural progression from the last effort Folie A Deux. Fall Out Boy show no sense of second-guessing themselves and 'My Songs...' in particular is a force of nature - they're daring you to dislike it. Not to mention Stump's vocals continue to be as breath-taking as ever.
While the intro feels slightly more sparse than it should - not quite minimalism, and a midjudged sense of electronics make it seem colder than the rest of the songs - 'Alone Together' redeems itself when the guitars kick in - and seriously, this album is drenched in guitar riffs. While it's got more of an R&B feel than some of the more exciting tracks, that's not to say that 'Alone Together' doesn't have a place on the album - and it definitely doesn't lose the sense of cohesion that just manages to hold everything together.
'Where Did The Party Go'
Taking a slightly more dance-rock turn (and the remixes of this will be a joy unto themselves) 'Where Did The Party Go' continues the sense of ambition that drives the album. The most important thing is the enthusiasim pervading it - the band just seem so genuinely excited to be playing together and making music, and for their fans to hear it.
'Just One Yesterday (feat Foxes)'
One of the strongest tracks on the album, 'Just One Yesterday' also manages to have a guest star who works with the song and not against it. Louis Rose Allen's (of Foxes) vocals harmonise perfectly with Stump's, on a song which insists that "I want to teach you a lesson in the worst kind of way." Taking the so-called 'emo' aspects of their earlier work and maturing them, Fall Out Boy have crafted a song about wanting someone back in order to break their heart - and will break your heart while they do so.
'The Mighty Fall (feat Big Sean)'
Arguably the weakest song on the album, Big Sean is sadly an example of where Fall Out Boy have let their ambition get the better of them. Big Sean doesn't bring anything to the track and instead leaves it feeling cluttered. What could have been a great, foot-stomping track instead falls victim to a cut-up rap and Big Sean ends up being somewhat overshadowed by the great melodies taking place around him.
'Miss Missing You'
Another weaker song, 'Miss Missing You' isn't a bad track but - aptly enough - has something missing. Perhaps because there are so many other strong songs on the album, 'Miss Missing You' falls by the wayside on first listen. It does, however, manage to grow with each replay and there's maybe a seed under there waiting to take hold.
The pinnacle of the band's new direction, 'Death Valley' sees them reaching out for something more and taking hold of it. This is what they've been building to and now they full-on own it. "I want to see your animal side," promises Stump before showing off his range with a seemingly effortless falsetto. What weaker tracks? 'Death Valley' takes any doubts you may have had and stomps them underfoot with that throbbing drum beat following for good measure. If this is what they've been working up to then the wait was worth it.
Fall Out Boy lyrics have always been teetering on the border between poetry and inanity; 'Young Volcanoes' manages to illustrate this better than anything else. The chorus is on another level, soaring higher and promising, "We've already won; we are wild." But just when they have you believing - well, anything they want you to, there's a kicker in the form of "We will teach you how to boys next door out of assholes." While the chuckle that follows it implies a certain amount of tongue-in-cheek, it's still a jarring moment in an otherwise beautiful song. (Not to mention, hearing this in a festival setting will be nothing short of sensational - roll on, Reading & Leeds).
'Rat A Tat (feat Courtney Love)'
"It's Courtney, bitch." Could there be a better intro? Courtney Love's frantic, urgent monologue leaves you feeling breathless and the pace doesn't drop from there. Love works in a way that Big Sean didn't; she brings her own flavour of desperate inanity to the song and works alongside Fall Out Boy's desperate break-down of a chorus. If nothing else makes you want to light things on fire, 'Rat A Tat' will personally hand you the kerosene.
'Save Rock and Roll (feat Elton John)'
It's not hyperbole to say that this could be one of the best tracks that Fall Out Boy have ever produced. Fall Out Boy have always been about heart, and 'Save Rock and Roll' is at the heart of the album. They don't shy away from poignancy but manage to do it in a way that doesn't result in cynical eye-rolling.
Elton John's piano and vocals fit beautifully with the song in a way that transcends his guest star status, and manages to avoid any sense of being overwrought at any point. Fall Out Boy have grown with their fans and there's a feeling that they've put every sense of themselves into this album - and it's all the better for it, as they insist, "No, no, we won't go - we don't know how to quit no more." And after this, there's no way we'd want them to.
Listen to the album in full below