So almost two years ago the latest album from Jersey alt-rockers My Chemical Romance dropped and I wrote a rather distasteful review. I had only listened to the album once and well just wrote as I had went along. So recently out of nowhere my shuffle on Winamp put on a track from the album (yes I still have all their stuff, musically) and it was the track “Bulletproof Heart.” I was doing some cleaning in the room and I really really got into the song. I think I’ve transcended the labels of music until I hear some trashy pop song but there I go breaking off into another subject. So after having the chorus, which after listening to it multiple times is really catchy and quite good I decided to give the band another go.
It was almost as if I had fallen in love with them all over again. You see a few years ago I was diagnosed as being bipolar, which is common and able to live with. It’s not crippling or any form of decreasing the quality of life, it just makes it more of a challenge at times. Now most people who know me now know that I am some kind of super hipster fellow, one who listens to just indie rock and rarely branches out. When your roommate has to listen to songs like “Glad You Came” and the other popular stuff you would feel that way, that you’re music is the best, but hearing “Bulletproof Heart” just changed everything.
I plugged my Android phone into the computer and dragged their discography over into my music folder. So on my walk to work for most of the week I had to fight the urge to listen to Danger Days. That’s the truth. Like I mentioned back in my first post the history of my own personal chemical romance (not literally a chemical at all) dates back to what 2004 when I heard “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” on the now defunct Y100 in Philly.
What had happened is I used to just listen to whatever everyone else listened to to fit in and be popular. It soon happened that that was never going to happen so I developed taste. A taste in alternative rock. I needed something new to salivate my lust for sharp guitar riffs that were fueled by power chords. Lyrics rife with teenage angst and anger. Emotional sounding lyrics that I could relate to. Then they debuted the song. It was my anthem. I was in love. One weekend on a mall trip I picked up a copy of “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge” and “I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love.” I listened to them on the bus ride into school on my walkman. I was defining myself.
Through my newfound love of the Jersey rockers I had found new bands to branch my taste such as Senses Fail, Taking Back Sunday, Armor for Sleep, From First to Last and of course The Used. The list goes on and on, Hot Topic would claim a large chunk of my money as my new wardrobe was full of tees from the above listed bands, but mainly My Chem tees and hoodies. They understood me and they knew how I felt. No girl wanted to date me, I had few friends but the ones I had were great, and my job was mediocre. My mother hated me and my father didn’t understand me (my mother is gone but my father gets me more now…thank god). Their songs reached me on a level that I would get, tracks from “Revenge” such as well the whole damn album were enough.
So not long after I started dating my music taste grew. Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Smashing Pumpkins, The Cure. All because of this one girl, then she dumps me. I was devastated to say the least and I had nothing to turn to. My friends didn’t understand since they didn’t have the relationship experience to help me. I was depressed and suicidal. Yes it happens, and this is where the undiagnosed bipolar kicks in. I started wearing more and more goth or emo shit, mainly more and more MCR shirts, almost all black (I wonder if they are still at my dad’s house, they were some nice tees and hoodies…). Then one day at work while cleaning a theater “Helena” came on during the credits. And then I was saved. That night I was feeling better because everytime that theater let out I booked it there to hear the song, Gerard Way and the gang got me. They understood me.
So now everytime I felt really depressed I would put on one of their songs. Most of the times I felt the lowest the radio would be on and right when I felt like quitting a song of theirs came on and it felt like they were in my room telling me things would alright, that I shouldn’t give up. This is where as a band you know you are more than just the music, you are the message and that you are bigger than any label people can throw at you.
Transitioning into college after a year of feeling rather odd and working made it rough. I made some really good friends, great friends actually, it’s a shame that I lost a few of them over the years due to a lot of stupid stuff, really it is, but I doubt that could be patched back up. Then after the first two months of schooling, which was rough after a year of not being schooled and not knowing anyone, “The Black Parade” drops. A trip to the mall with one of my first friends from college resulted in the acquiring of the album, since I owned the other two. It also resulted in the owning of a very small shirt that came with the album, it looked good on me if I say so myself.
Then a lengthy road trip to Philly in the middle of a blizzard resulted into a dream come true, seeing the band I worshiped play live for the first and sadly only time. The show was amazing so were the people who I saw it with. Then things changed and life got more interesting, six months of dating and then a summer alone, single, depressed meant I needed more of the band then ever before then they announce a hiatus and that’s when life just felt like it ended and so did the relationship with the band.
Then the announcement of the new album lead to me not really caring. The first two singles peaked my interest and then that was it. I got the album and listened to it. I wrote a rather hasty and negative review. It wasn’t until I listened to them again that I knew that my love for their music would never really die regardless of the fact that Death Cab For Cutie is now my favorite and that probably won’t change. That bands like The Decemberists, The Shins, Tokyo Police Club and other indie rock bands now dominate my computer and my phone. But there should always be a place for the memories that are tied to your first favorite band. Tracks like “Helena” and “I Don’t Love You” will always be the anthems for the dumped. So after I had been listening to the album a bit and a recent comment from Frankie I had to redo my review with a more open mind and be less angry about how things have soured and how time has changed us.
So let’s set this up right. One thing I don’t remember mentioning in the first review is that it’s another concept album. Just like with Parade this one is telling a different story. About the post apocalyptic California set in 2019. The music unlike some of the tracks in Parade can be stand alone songs and listened to on their own, but then again in Parade you can do that to, they all flow well together. Anyways I have rambled on enough about my history with the band and on the album here’s the review.
The first thing the album presents us with is not really a song but more or less an introduction to the concept to an extent. “Look Alive Sunshine” sets up the entire concept for the album. It’s essntially Doctor Death Defying, the DJ in this fictional world setting up the album. The quick talking is your typical dj and the way the track smoothly moves into the first single, “Na, Na, Na…” is quite impressive.
Way and co do a great job on this track, it seemingly channels the memories you should have from “Revenge” with the quick guitar riffs and poppy sounding lyrics. The vocals soar as Way has one of the most honest sounding vocals in the alternative industry. From a lyrical stand point the band continues to show off that they have generally much better lyrics than the opposition. As the song progresses the intensity goes from 10 to lower and back up. Way’s voice soars through the entire track as this song is seemingly the anthem to rally all to their cause. The potent line “Everybody wants to change the world/But no one wants to die/Wanna try, wanna try” resonates even though it focuses on a distant future that hasn’t happened and might not happen. This is what the band does so well, the lyrics are carefully chosen to resonate with the listener to make them feel something that they want you to.
“Bulletproof Heart” is my favorite now, I love this song. It starts off with Way singing with next to no background instrumentals. “Gravity/Don’t mean too much too me” as the guitar chord is played over with synthesizers going off on the back ground. You listen to it carefully and it tells the story that they want to so well done. Way’s a comic writer, and this just shows me in my head of a bunch of runaways that want to make a difference, much like it seems like the album is all about. The changes in pitch on his vocals throughout the song to emphasize certain parts really shows off the strong points in his singing. The guitar riffs differ from verses and the chorus as the chorus sticks in your head for days, and in this day and age its a lot better than some of the other garbage that can stick in your head. And so far the first two songs on the album have a new sound with throwbacks to “Revenge” a more rocky sound that has a slight indie vibe to it that makes it not so mainstream.
“Sing” being the third song and the second single is a slower track. With tambourines and a steady drumbeat in the beginning this is a track that highlights Way’s vocals and his writing. You look at the lyrics, it’s a call to action. It is such a powerful message that Glen Beck called it propaganda without fact checking. The guitar and bass riffs come on strong in the chorus and in the bridge but then take a back seat to the constant drumming and the vocals. “Sing it out/Before they sell what tomorrow will be” really hits home and the fact is, it’s in a futuristic setting so you really can’t point it out as propaganda. This is a teenage anthem for a new generation, aka those that were too young for “I’m Not Okay” Although I was old enough for the last big anthem this one is still a powerful and moving track.
“Planetary GO!” is a whole new can of worms that took me a few times to get into. It really did, I still don’t love the song but it has it’s mixed bag of redeeming qualities. When the sirens start blaring and Way enters in with a creepy sounding whisper sort of lyrics and then the thumping bass kicks in you know it’s more of a dance song. They have done songs like this before, that is more about the instrumentals or try to be a throwback to an older generation style of song. This one makes me think of the 1980’s bands like Depeche Mode if they were more aggressive sounding. Way continues on this track to mock the society that he created for the concept that might just be a mirror of today’s society. “Ladies and gentlemen:/Truth is now acceptable/Fame is now injectable/Process the progress/This core is critical/Faith is unavailable/Lives become incredible/Now, please understand that” spoken as quick as possible sounds really creepy. Add in Ray doing the back up vocals near the end of this electro pop ramp and the song finally is wearing on you isn’t it? That’s what happened to me. It makes ya move with that nice sounding beat, even with the not as strong lyrics as the rest of their catalogue, they have those though, it still is better than most of what Fall Out Boy turned out.
“The Only Hope for Me is You” starts off really slowly with Way belting out “Remember me!” with the heavy usage of synths in this track. I have to say the lyrics once again are a more powerful trait in the entire album. Once the chorus arrives the guitar soars with the heavy drum beat. I see the subtle change in musical style from one album to another from the band but this album is a mixture of all their previous sounds. After the first chorus ends the synths take a break and the guitar dominates as the vocals remain constant. I have said this multiple times that Way has one of the more natural voices in modern rock music and it hasn’t changed since “Revenge.”
Following this middle track we get “Traffic Report” which is Doctor Death Defying giving an update on the story as if we are just listening to the entire album from start to finish on the album. The report adds more to the story and leads into “Party Poison” easily as the drums sound muffled and the guitar chords do too. A Japanese woman starts talking over it all and it sounds quite muffled but once she stops it becomes a fast paced rock track that soars. This song reminds me more of Na Na Na earlier in the album with the faster aggressive sound and quick paced lyrics. Way’s vocals can switch from going at a faster speed then go back to slow and there is no change from him in how it sounds. Most artists can only do one speed and it is all they do, Way mixes and matches it with his band.
“Safe Yourself, I’ll Hold Them Back” starts off and it’s another one of those faster tracks. With the heavy guitars and the impressive guitar solo in the middle this song is another one of those flashbacks. It sounds like it could be a mix of “Revenge” and “Bullets” but it’s a nice blend of modern MCR with the sound and lyrics of older MCR at the same time. I really like jamming out to this song, Way going into the na na nas at a higher pitch while screaming out the rest of the lyrics and then slowly leading into another one of my favorites off the album.
“Scarecrow” starts off with a haunting guitar and drum riff and the echoing vocals telling everyone to hide from the Scarecrow. Way’s vocals are edited to sound a bit different but you know what it fits the mood of the song. This is one of those songs that has the simple drumming and rest of the instrumentals but is driven by the lyrics and vocals and this is the kind of MCR song that I loved. Lyrics are always one of the stronger parts and if it all comes together in a giant piece like here then we have a great tune. It’s also one of those songs that you can sway along to, but near the end the instrumental that kicks off before Way starts singing about love sounds like honestly, an old Armor for Sleep track. “Summertime” continues to slowly move towards the end and the song kind of is like “Disenchanted” from their previous album, a slow moving track right before the finale that speeds up. And that is exactly what it is, a slow track. Guitars aren’t as strong and teh drumming is quite simple compared to previous efforts. But this is another song that Way highlights with his vocals and that once again is alright by me.
“Destroya” is a rather lame title for a song but once you get into the actual song you have to disagree. The tribal sounding drum beats at the beginning are a bit odd but then the guitar kicks in with Way going check check and that’s when the song picks up. Aggressive sounding vocals mixed in with the more intense drumming and strumming from the rest of the group makes this one a great way to lead up to the finale. The chorus is just as catchy as “Bulletproof Heart” but as the song progresses the speed changes from high speed to a slower pace near the end then it picks back up. It feels like it would be a great track to compile a music video of violent movie images or something like that.
The legit final song before Doctor D signs off is a very great sounding track entitled “The Kids from Yesterday” and it is a great finale just like “Famous Last Words” on Parade and it reaches the ears of the older generation. The cowbell mixed in with the synths and the whole band add to the experience. It’s a finale that the band has become known for on their albums. Summing up the entire process by making a slower moving track that would be a great bonfire song. This is a well written lyrical song that I actually have grown attached to, it makes it’s point.
To sum it up, after a couple more listens to the album it’s become clear and evident that the band that seemingly was impossible to label has grown past the labeling, past the whole emo style that people labeled them with and transcended that into just making music for the sake of making music. Each song feels like it could be it’s own single in most cases and at the same time it’s a welcome reception for the band who has been away since 2006. The four year hiatus gave them time to grow up even more and raise families and it’s a welcome change. No longer can we just label them as goth rock but just alternative rock instead. The evolution of the sound is what scared me I guess at first, what I had expected was a throwback to the first two albums since Parade felt more like a Queen record but they refuse to stay the same and that is what was the scary thing. Hopefully the follow up that they are recording now keeps up with that style, the constant evolution because it’s a trend, the music industry evolves, why can’t musicians? My re-review of the album has caused me to give it a more favorable 8.5/10 citing the strong lyrics, and throwback sounds as a huge welcome back from the band.