Fall Out Boy were undoubtedly one of the best bands to come out of the pop punk scene or what a lot of people liked to call ‘Emo’ scene for some reason. Pete Wentz and Patrick Stump had a mean ear for melody and they also were one of the only bands who weren’t blatantly copying the likes of Blink 182. After an extremely brief hiatus of three years, the band reformed in 2013 and released the very cheekily titled ‘Save Rock and Roll’ which stood more as a testament to the band’s reformation rather than an actual commentary on Rock N Roll music. Especially when you consider the album was a major change in direction for the band as they started shooting up the charts higher than ever before. The sound was much more polished, a lot less raw but still worked as an album and was extremely good fun.
Even though the album worked on many levels, ‘Save Rock and Roll’ did put the question to many fans as to whether FOB were staying true to themselves, or simply shooting for radio-play. Their motives were thrown into question even more when they released the EP that Ryan Adams produced called ‘Pax AM Days’ which was basically just Hardcore music, which is a genre they were so fond of dabbling in on their earlier material. The answers to these questions come when you hear their interviews; in an interview with Digital Spy UK recently FOB said that their real aim is to ‘influence pop culture’ and to ‘stay relevant’, and when you look at their new album these statements make the music make a tad more sense.
When you want to stay ‘relevant’ my guess is you’d have to look at modern trends and as Kanye once said ‘Hip-Hop is the new Rock n Roll’. So it’s not really a shock to be honest that they use some Hip-Hop traits on this album; especially when you consider they had an unfortunate appearance from Big Sean on their last album and 2 Chainz also featured in one of their videos. The most obvious trait they’ve taken from Hip-Hop is the use of sampling. They use sampling a fair amount on this thing, from the ‘do do do dos’ on ‘Centuries’ that are taken from Susanne Vega’s ‘Tom’s Diner’ to the theme music to a 1960s sitcom ‘The Munsters’ in the song ‘Uma Thurman’. In the latter of the two songs the sample is actually used quite well being one of the best moments on the album whereas on ‘Uma Thurman’ the whole song feels a bit tacky even with all of the Pulp Fiction references. These gaps that were filled in with samples would have benefited greatly from some of their own instrumentation, because as we know they’re brilliant with their own instrumentation. It’s where other bands who have been influenced by Hip-Hop have succeeded in recreating Hip-Hop using the best means they know how. Which is what Hip-Hop was built off of in the first place is using tiny fractions off of other people’s songs and creating beats out of it to the point it’s unrecognisable as the original song.
When they do use focus more on their own instrumentation they do occasionally hit the nail on the head. The album opener ‘Irresistible’ has an extremely good use of percussion with the tittering high hats in the chorus, while in the verses we’re given these brilliant horn sections. Unfortunately moments like these are too few and towards the back-end of the album we are handed instrumentation that is so unbelievably bland like the tracks ‘Jet Pack Blues’ and ‘Favourite Record’. There are honestly a large amount of pop songs you could find in the charts right now that are more inventive than some of the clichés you’ll find on some of these tracks. There are times where it sounds like it’s only drums in the mix because every other instrument has been pushed so far back to the point where it just sounds like tinny noise.
This wouldn’t be so bad if Patrick Stump toned down his voice every now and again, because it feels so in your face on this record that – unless you’re in love with the man’s voice – feels very obnoxious. It’s constantly pushed to the front of the mixing and sounds so damn LOUD like the song ‘Fourth Of July’. It’s unfortunate that the only real time he does tone it down is the song ‘The Kids Aren’t Alright’ which sounds like a One Direction leftover.
This album isn’t complete rubbish; the wit in the lyricism every now and again, the incredible melodies and their ambition are all well in tact. It just sounds like Fall Out Boy are going for what will be their revolutionary sound with all their heart in it but not entirely sure which way they’re going. Too many times on this record does it sound tame, or like it’s lacking in something. At times it feels like the guitars are pushed so far back because they’re afraid they’ll sound like they’re regressing when in fact the key is to embrace their past and use it to explore truly new things instead of worrying about staying ‘relevant’.
Best Tracks: Irresistable, Centuries