The 15th anniversary of the My Chemical Romance classic has come and gone, but with the recent news of them reuniting, I just couldn’t wait five more years to write about Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge. I vividly remember my first time hearing this record. I was a 21-year old, shopping at my local Hot Topic, browsing the listening station of the recent CD releases. The Three Cheers artwork grabbed my attention from the first look, and I knew I had to see what the band had come up with, having only seen them open up for The Used at the 9:30 Club about a year prior. The album was produced by one of all-time favorites, Howard Benson, and had it not been for my immediate trust in the producer; I may have waited to purchase this album until a few weeks later. What I was not expecting was just how professional, polished, and amazing the record was, as I became immediately transported into the world of MCR. From the opening notes of “Helena,” I knew this band had created something incredibly special, immediate, and gripping from the very first listen. It’s safe to say that this immediate purchase of the record was not one that I came to regret.
“Helena,” and the music video that would follow, exploded the popularity of My Chemical Romance at a pace that neither the band or label had expected. The expectations of being signed to a major label during this “era of emo” in 2004 were that the band would be popular, but even Reprise Records had to have been shocked by not only the final product of the album but the cultural icons that MCR were becoming. The song itself is built around a perfect combination of a dual-guitar attack of Frank Iero and Ray Toro that meshed brilliantly with the aggressive vocal style of Gerard Way. By the time the Queen-esque, and massive chorus of, “What’s the worst that I can say? / Things are better if I stay / So long and goodnight,” it was clear that the band had their own lofty expectations of what they could accomplish on this album. As much as I love The Black Parade, Three Cheers was really my “first love” and introduction to the band. For that reason, this record will always have such a sentimental part in my life.
The brash punk rock of “Give ‘Em Hell Kid” came across as a great transition between their debut album, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, and bridged the gap of what My Chem wanted to remind longtime fans of the group of, yet still look into the future for a glimpse into the art they were capable of creating. From the much-improved lyrics found on Three Cheers such as, “Some might say, we are made from the sharpest things you say / We are young and we don’t care / Your dreams and your hopeless hair / We never wanted it to be this way / For all our lives / Do you care at all?” it was almost as if the band was speaking directly to their new army of followers. The aggressive punk rock style continues on songs such as “To The End,” that features a pulsating bass line from Mikey Way, and more stellar vocals from Gerard. The way everything just clicked together like a perfect puzzle on this album made this band’s ascension into the mainstream something we had never seen before in our “scene.”
“You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us In Prison” featured some of my favorite Gerard lyrics from the beautifully tragic imagery of, “In the middle of a gunfight / In the center of a restaurant /They say, “Come with your arms raised high!”/ Well, they’re never gonna get me / Like a bullet through a flock of doves / To wage this war against your faith in me /” showcased an artist at the top of his lyrical game. It was almost as if Gerard was channeling his inner John Woo-inspired films of the “flock of doves” imagery and also showed his love of film and comics, in general.
And then there was the first single, “I’m Not Okay (I Promise).” What a hell of a blast of a song. Gerard was again speaking directly to all the misfit kids out there who may be going through some fucked up times in school and telling them that it’s okay to be messed up. Even in the bridge where he sings, “Forget about the dirty looks / The photographs your boyfriend took / You said you read me like a book, but the pages all are torn and frayed now,” he’s setting the scene of a place where it’s okay to be yourself and join in on the madness that follows. This became one of My Chemical Romance’s most important “moments” in their career where they had a fictional story draped over a very biographical approach to their songwriting.
The imagery found in the music video of “The Ghost of You” with its Saving Private Ryan-inspired flair showed the dedication the band had to telling a story through their music. Whether it be thru the lens of a music video, to their actual live performances on stage, My Chemical Romance became comic book characters of their own sense through their costume choices and the direction they took throughout their storied career. The dedication to their craft became increasingly evident through each music video, live performance, and interview that the band released.
Other songs like “Thank You For the Venom” became a mantra of sorts that established My Chemical Romance as much more than “just a band;” they became a franchise on this record. From the emblazoned merchandise designs, to the creative directions in the music videos, it appeared the band had a vision for just about every part of their career.
What set apart My Chemical Romance from the vast number of punk/emo bands during this era was their ability to have this vision for their music, and the musical chops to back up what they wanted to accomplish in their music. Sure, a band can have a great vision for their merch, album artwork, and wardrobe on stage, but if the music itself isn’t great, it just won’t work. This becomes evident on the song, “It’s Not a Fashion Statement, It’s a Fucking Deathwish.” With a title like that, My Chemical Romance had to back that shit up with some incredible music behind it. Lucky for us, they were more than up to the task at hand.
“Cemetery Drive” again showcased a band who knew their strengths down to a point, and once more had Gerard and Mikey’s story of losing their grandmother in real life mixed into the realm of the fictional revenge story found on the album. On the surface, there is plenty of emotion from the songwriters, but its just as easy to get wrapped up into the fictional story as well. Lyrics such as, “I miss you, I miss you so far / And the collision of your kiss that made it so hard,” find two kids losing their grandmother at a crossroads. The tragedy of that moment where Gerard and Mikey saying in interviews on just how inspiring this family member was is heart-wrenching to say the least, and we feel for them on their journey to coping with this loss.
The eventual album closer of “I Never Told You What I Do For a Living” wraps up the revenge story in a bloody way as Gerard hauntingly sings, “And never again, and never again / They gave us two shots to the back of the head / And we’re all dead now.” It’s a clever way to transition into the realm of The Black Parade, which is clearly about death and what comes next, and looking back on this song today makes me appreciate the vision the band had for their art even more than I thought would be possible.
The vision that My Chemical Romance has for their music was sorely missed from these past six years. I’m so stoked for my favorite band to be back together, touring, and fingers crossed, making new music in the very near future. Three Cheers for MCR being reunited and ready to save the world once again.