ON NOVEMBER 20, 2009—less than four years ago—Fall Out Boy, at their commercial, critical, and sexual height, announced they were temporarily disbanding.
The group's reasoning behind the decision was fairly nebulous. Bassist, lyricist, narcissist, and resident pretty boy Pete Wentz laughably attributed the breakup to his now-defunct marriage to Ashlee Simpson, and the attendant tabloid attention, as a principal motivating factor (to be fair, it could have just been the Klonopin talking). Vocalist and guitarist Patrick Stump merely blamed the group's constant touring, writing, and recording schedule and the resultant lack of time each member had to focus on additional professional and personal endeavors (including Stump's deeply regrettable solo outing, Soul Punk)—an explanation which rings a little more realistic.
But it ultimately feels as if the hiatus was nothing more than a self-imposed, capitalist cryo-sleep, a strategic ploy intended to engender an unprecedented amount of hype for the inevitable fifth record. And Fall Out Boy has succeeded, like they always have and probably always will. The latest, Save Rock and Roll, debuted at number one in 27 countries—hardly a tepid comeback. Nobody can deny the group's marketing genius.
Not many people can deny their pop genius, either. Underneath the noxious, timeworn, mall-core veneer, early singles like "Sugar, We're Going Down," "Dance, Dance" (both off the group's major-label debut, From Under the Cork Tree), and "This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race" (off the follow-up, Infinity on High) remain some of the best and most inspired guitar-pop songs penned in the last decade. The rest of those records aren't too shabby, either.
Barring some exceptions (including the first single, "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light 'Em Up)"), Save Rock and Roll is, sound-wise, markedly similar to the group's previous efforts, which isn't really surprising when you think about how insignificant a four-year hiatus really is. This is still the same band you've grown to love (or abhor). Patrick Stump may have lost some weight, and Pete Wentz certainly looks like less of an asshole, but these are essentially the same dudes. They're still comically histrionic, and value these gigantic ABBA-sized vocal hooks over everything else. And they're still the most artistically legitimate boy band since the Beatles. Or, at least, the Bay City Rollers.