|By Matt Jones||Friday, 9 Feb 2007|
Is this actually happening? Am I becoming emo? Or is My Chemical Romance actually an enjoyable band?
The answer to all of these questions, apparently, is yes. Because I broke down and bought The Black Parade by MCR Wednesday…and I have not been able to stop listening to it yet. It’s currently the only music I burned into my Xbox 360, because I needed to listen to it so bad that I burnt it in and have been shooting people in Saints Row while rocking out to this album.
It all started with Burnout 3: Takedown. EA took its magic touch to that game something fierce, and I would have gladly turned off all the music were it not for one tiny inclusion that I actually enjoyed. It was My Chemical Romance’s “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)”. Now, at that time, I was totally convinced that MCR was a pure emo band and that this must have been some sort of a fluke record that I liked, an anomaly in the fabric of the Matrix. I mean, look at the music video…that lead singer looks like bunnyxablaze. This could not be a band I’d end up liking. Not in this lifetime.
Fast forward to two weeks ago. I asked a co-worker (age 25) to write down some songs that would make for good Guitar Hero songs, just in case the whole associate producer application thing went through (so far, not a peep). On that list, he included MCR’s first single off this album, “Welcome to the Black Parade.” As I listened through the opening, I had to say that it wouldn’t make for a great Guitar Hero song…but I liked it. So I listened again…and again…then I watched the music video…and watched it again…oh sweet Jesus, I’m starting to like MCR? To prove I did not, I YouTubed the entire album, listening song by song from the beginning…I ended up doing that three days in a row before I finally found time to buy the album.
This album has infested my life.
Now that I’ve bored half of the readers with my MCR backstory, I’m going to completely skip the boring “image” crap that people want to focus on with a band like MCR (“Oooooo Gerard dyed his hair blonde! What does it all mean? Does he not like black hair anymore?”) and focus purely on the music. I’m also going to completely ignore the whole “concept album” theme of this album, because I think it takes away from the songs if you try to somehow force them into a “story”. This is not to say that MCR fails to stay in the concept of the concept album, but I don’t really feel like trying to explain how each song fits in to the concept, so I’m not going to try.
If you listen to this album, sure, there are a couple of emo moments here and there, but in the end, it sounds mostly like a great mishmash of 70s rock bombast, 80s arena rock, 90s punk, and the variety of pop-rock from the 2000s. The weirdest thing about this album is that while you’re listening to each song, you say “Boy, they sound a lot like (insert band here)” about three times throughout. The album is the bastard child of so many bands that I have come to one stunning conclusion: it’s a My Chemical Romance album in the end…and I love it.
The album starts out with “The End.”, a song that either reminds you of Pink Floyd’s “In the Flesh” that started off The Wall, or reminds you that you should probably get around to listening to that album sometime. It begins with the beeping of a heart monitor, as the words tell the story of “The Patient” who is dying, as it picks up pace leading to the second song. Now, if you know your Wall, you’d expect that if they follow that pattern, the second song would be more of a relaxed, low key song. Nothing could be further from the truth.
“Dead!” starts in immediately with the heart monitor flatlining and the pulsing guitar riffs leading us into what is almost a morbidly joyful rock song. Listening to the great rocking that MCR gives us in this track really gets my juices flowing for Guitar Hero II for the Xbox 360. One of the high paced, high energy songs on this album, “Dead!” is also one of the best.
“This is How I Disappear” comes next, sounding similar to a late 90s Offspring song, except with a singer that doesn’t kill my ears. The lyrics and music are darker than the previous two tracks, while still being a very high energy rock song. I like this song a good bit (especially the third verse where the lead singer gets a kind of falsetto voice that leads into a heavier riff section) and I really like how the guitars are very active while following the steady drum beat during the chorus.
“The Sharpest Lives” has a very dark surfer rock song feel at times, while also having the “double singing” effect (I’m sure there’s some sort of technical term for it, but it’s where the leader singer sings the words at two different pitches, and they are overlayed on each other) that may be a cheap effect, I don’t know, but I know I like it. The only thing I need to do is read through the lyrics in the booklet, because there’s something about vampires in there, and I don’t get that.
“Welcome to the Black Parade” can be seen differently if you see the music video. Apparently, the lead singer believes that when you die, death comes to you in “any way you like” or something like that, and this person who is dying has his happiest memory when he went to see a parade with his father when he was young. So the song starts by giving us that backstory, and that part is kind of slow and morbid. Then the song does a 180 and goes upbeat, and the lyrics become much more bright, as “we’ll carry on” becomes the theme of the track.The upbeat lyrics combined with the fast pace of the music (which kind of delves into Queen territory near the bridge) and the multitude of layers of different instruments and strings and guitars and all that jazz make this the most epic song of the album, and very enjoyable. This is also the one most reminiscent of “I’m Not Okay”, but very different in a key way. They both have great, memorable choruses, but while “I’m Not Okay” is all emo (pessimistic and self centered), “Welcome to the Black Parade” bucks the expectations and is very open and optimistic.
“I Don’t Love You” is very reminiscent of The Strokes, a low key song about love lost or some such silliness. After the bombast of the previous song, a slower beat is definitely appreciated. It also allows us to get our energy back for the next track. As the most “emo” track of the album, this might be the one that makes me think MCR is an emo band. But after the very epic “Welcome to the Black Parade” and the next tracks’ complete lack of emo, I’m gonna let it slide.
“House of Wolves” sounds a lot like a White Stripes song mixed with Wolfmother (ironic, with the wolf in the name and all). It’s kind of a bluesy rock song mixed in with the patented MCR fast pace and high energy. This one is very similar to “Dead!”: very, very rocking. One of my faves.
“Cancer” is another slower song and another one to start off with a soft but powerful piano to set the mood. This is also the shortest song that is meant as a stand alone, which is probably for the best, since it gets the job done well in the short amount of time that it’s there. The lyrics are rather powerful, and the piano driven tune makes it kind of a downer.
“Mama” takes that downer and turns it back up again. The lyrics are like a great dark comedy, written in a 1-1-2-1 format as a letter going back home from a son at war. The music starts out very minimalist and then eventually breaks out into a heavy riffer, sounding like a polka straight from hell, and ending with a group singing session. This one’s a favorite of mine because I love the dark lyrics here, almost like a dark jester for the devil wrote them or something. And it’s got Liza! And a squeezebox! Woo!
“Sleep” is another “emo-style” song that begins with a piano and a tape recorder playback of someone talking about his sleeping terrors. The music actually sounds a lot like Weezer’s “Only in Dreams” ending, which may be completely intentional (seeing as how that song kicks ass). It has slower moments as well as the faster, louder chorus moments. But there are parts in this song where the lead singer (Gerard Way aka Mr Bunnyxablaze turned Blondie) really kicks it into high and also has very low key moments, which really impresses me that he has so much range and can pull it all off.
“Teenagers” sounds like something that the Bat Out of Hell-era Meat Loaf would have sung had he come along after Columbine. It’s another dark comedy of a song talking about how parents are all scared of the teens (the chorus literally is “They say all teenagers scare the living shit out of me”). This song combined with Mama are the dark comedy style of songs that I think MCR pulls off very well.
“Disenchanted” begins with a pretty acoustic guitar and some more “emo” lyrics, but a chorus that I really enjoy. This could possibly be the most disposable song to most, but it is one of my favorite songs on the album. It’s one of the more intimate songs on the album, and it’s songs like this that makes me really not want to talk about “The Patient” concept that supposedly runs throughout the album, because I like to think that this song could apply to anyone. It also is one of the steadier, less high paced rockers on the album. Being the depressing song that it is, it kind of shows MCR’s jumping back and forth between optimism, pessimism, cynicism, and dark comedy…ism on this album that could be disconcerting to those that prefer one theme over their albums, but works for a minor ADD case like myself.
“Famous Last Words” returns the band to the optimism over pessimism theme from “Welcome to the Black Parade”. The chorus “I am not afraid to keeping on living, I am not afraid to walk this world alone” leaves the album with a message of optimism in the end. Plus, you can really feel Gerard Way is giving it his all when he belted out the words to this one. Strings along with high octane guitars and drums fill in the sound and keep the song moving. The song actually has another verse that repeats along with the chorus that will surely make this one of the more popular songs to see live (plus it’s the second single, so that doesn’t hurt).
The album “ends” for about a minute and a half before a little ditty entitled “Blood” once again brings a morbid sense of humor to the album, which is appropriate I think for this CD. For a band that does a lot of different things, I think they do all of the fairly well. Being that I am a realist and that I might be rating this for other people, if you’re still reading this, I think most people would consider this album a “Good” or “Great” album. But since I’m a fucking self absorbed bastard and I want to cause a controversy, this album is a classic for me, so I’m rating it “Classic”. The biggest thing that pushes this album into Classic status for me is that I prefer to listen to this CD the entire way through EVERY TIME I listen to it. I don’t skip songs. I just put it on and let it run. That to me spells classic. Shit, I don’t even do that with “Reign in Blood”.
Track Listing (Faves*):
3. This is How I Disappear
4. The Sharpest Lives
5. Welcome to the Black Parade*
6. I Don’t Love You
7. House of Wolves*
13. Famous Last Words*
14. Blood (“Hidden Track”)