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Fall Out Boy still fighting for the right to be weird

Patrick Stump Andy Hurley Joe Trohman Pete Wentz

Patrick Stump, Andy Hurley, Joe Trohman, Pete Wentz

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♦ 6:30 p.m. Thursday

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♦ Sold out

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Updated: May 15, 2013 11:23PM

We knew this would happen. A band calls a time out, some members go solo, it doesn’t fly, the band regroups. Happens all the time — the question is: What’s changed?

In the case of Fall Out Boy, Chicago’s suburban emo heroes, just listening to the new disc — “Save Rock and Roll,” the band’s fifth and second to debut at No. 1 — you’re hit immediately with galloping strings, thundering drums and new overall sonic ambitions. The guitars aren’t as brash and in-your-face as the production and vocals. This North Shore-born band — singer-guitarist Patrick Stump, bassist-lyricist Pete Wentz, guitarist Joe Trohman and drummer Andy Hurley — clearly has evolved way beyond this album’s endangered namesake.

Let’s get right to that audacious title. Seriously?

“Over the past three years, I’ve spent a bunch of time driving around with a kid in the car,” Wentz said recently from his current California home. “A lot of music sounded the same. Rock has become this quiet and quaint little thing. It’s not that capital-R rock ’n’ roll needs saving — the leather jackets and blues chords — but I think little-r rock ’n’ roll does. Someone like Kanye or 2 Chainz seems very rock ’n’ roll to me. That’s what we hope to inspire: a generation that could take that mantle back — an attitude of fun, danger.”

The first video from “Save Rock and Roll,” for the single “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light ’em Up),” features the band — with rapper 2 Chainz — pulling a Steve Dahl and torching piles of vinyl records.

“It’s an ambitious [album] title, yeah,” he said. “Rock ’n’ roll should be ambitious. People are still putting rules on rock ’n’ roll, like ‘Skrillex isn’t rock ’n’ roll. That’s just noise.’ That’s exactly what our parents’ parents were saying about Elvis. For me, the exciting things in recent years have been hearing fun. or someone like Gotye on the radio, different things that feel authentic and real and weird.”

That last one is Wentz’s go-to adjective. It’s how he conceptualizes setting himself and his band apart. Fall Out Boy’s previous album, “Folie á Deux” (2008), performed comparatively poorly and caused consternation among the fan base. Why? “I think we made a weird record,” Wentz said, with a tint of pride. The new record is “expansive and weird.” The band’s very rise from suburban schmoes to international icons: “very weird.”

“They’re all pretty weird,” Wentz said of FOB’s albums.
“ ‘Dance, Dance,’ that record — songs like that weren’t on the radio at the time. That’s what I mean by weird. In middle school, I heard Green Day’s ‘Dookie’ and thought, ‘Wow, that’s cool and weird, but it’s played on the radio next to things that make sense to other people, but this is the album I relate to that makes me feel OK to be different.’ You know, weird. That’s the space for Fall Out Boy.”

Five years off and a couple of fizzled solo outings — Wentz put together Black Cards, a reggae-rock-dance mash-up, while Stump released a good album on his own, “Soul Punk” — didn’t dampen fan enthusiasm. “Save Rock and Roll” was recorded last fall in Venice, Calif., entirely in secret.

Keeping anything secret in a social media age is an impressive feat. Wentz says the hiatus provided just enough cover.

“We were able to record in secret because, while people were sniffing around for a reunion tour, no one was expecting an album,” Wentz said. “No one was checking the studios.”

Complicating the clandestine operation: the title song features Elton John. Turns out, the classic rocker is a fan, which Fall Out Boy discovered when it sought permission to cover his “Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting),” due later this year on an Elton tribute album.

“We said, ‘Well, you know, we’ve got this song …,’” Wentz said, “and he was into it. He understood the spirit of the song, and in fact he was the one who said, ‘That’s got to be the album title.’”

“Save Rock and Roll” also features cameos from British singer Foxes, rapper Big Sean and ye olde Courtney Love.

The band takes that act back on the road this week, launching a new world tour Tuesday in Milwaukee, then back home in Chicago on Thursday. The toughest part of this go-round? Trimming the set list.

“In the early days,” Wentz said, “it was, ‘Let’s play as loud and fast as we can.’ That was the vibe. If we could get through five songs and not break all our instruments, it was a good set. We got paid in pizza then. It’s weird to think back on it. It’s been a long, weird journey.”

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