With the first taste of new music from Mikey Way’s synth-tinged project Electric Century in five years, Way clearly had lofty expectations for what this band was capable of creating. The band, comprised also of Sleep Station vocalist David Debiak, released their debut For the Night to Control in 2016 and started to build momentum through word of mouth. While the band never toured on their debut material, Way tinkered with the idea of creating visuals behind the music and story. This self-titled effort is also released in conjunction with a comic book of the same name that provides lush visuals and a tale of a character named Johnny Ashford who gets in trouble with driving drunk. The character then begins seeing a hypnotherapist who recommends he go to his “happy place” of the Atlantic City boardwalk, where he stumbles upon a casino named Electric Century. The accompanying album of the same name dabbles into some of the same thematic elements presented in the comic, and makes for a great “guide” to understand the material. This record, much like its predecessor, relies on electronica-styled production to welcome everyone back into the world of Electric Century.
”Till We’re Gone” was the first taste of new music released from this album, and it’s a pretty good introduction to the styles presented on this record. The programmed beat sets the stage nicely for Debiak to provide his vocals over the synths and samples found here. In the second verse, we get a glimpse into the character’s head space with lyrics like, “Saw the night unfold in this land / Never lost or stuck out my hand / This world will see you through / Got to stop there’s no turning back / Curious you die in these tracks the light won’t shine over you.” The concept of death and mortality in general is prevalent throughout the entire album, and is explored in different ways as the record unfolds.
In the bridge of the second track, “Voices,” Debiak sings “Here I am, it’s another year of my youth / And I am doing fine / It’d be good to see your face / I know I’ve made it hard / I feel like coming home again / I believe I can change,” and through the lens of the main character it’s clear that the repeated last line of “I believe I can change” is an important marker in his development of rebuilding himself.
Things take a more serious dive in the piano-based ballad “Alive.” The second verse of “We are nothing without ourselves
I’ll sing a song / But I know it belongs on a shelf / When it blends in with things / That we never see in this hell / Oh, but I miss your clothes / And the way that you know I want help,” really struck a chord with me because admitting when you need help can sometimes be the most difficult thing to acknowledge. The way the songwriters build around this concept of self-discovery and wanting to be a better person is an easily relatable concept, and they do it with incredible grace.
”Let Me In” is one of the darker tracks on the album as Debiak sings on the opening, “Today I feel like dying / Nothing in me to change / Nothing in my headspace / It leads me to explain / Today I feel like cheating / On a restless heart / There’s nothing here worth saving / Watch it fall apart,” and it becomes even more apparent of the conflict within this character in the story. On the one hand, he wants to be a better person but may feel like his demons are outweighing the positive in his life at that point. The song also features a terrific guitar solo at the end that shines through like a beam of light breaking up the storm.
The concept of what we’re left with when we leave this world gets heavy on the track, “Adeline.” Debiak sings on the chorus with cautious vulnerability, “Now if you notice I do try / Get out of the way I’m back in line / But no one would notice if I died / Maybe you’ll live for me sometimes, Adeline.” Sometimes all it takes is that one person we trust the most in this life to bring us back to being grounded. “I’ll Be Fine” follows this song, and provides some more optimism that things may work out for the main character in this story. The band again relies on the piano to tell these moments of self-reflection and allows for the listener to connect on a deeper level. The track also has some well-placed string arrangements in the choruses to really allow the song to reach its intended heights.
”Little Things” breaks up some of the synth-laden tracks in the sequencing and feels like a great pop rock song. The song is largely built around the electric guitar and some real drums to further expand on what the band is capable of creating. It ended up being one of the most memorable songs in the set for me due to its variety of styles and providing some further insight into the character’s mind at this point in the story.
We begin to feel more conflict in the character when we get to the song, “Oh Mary,” that finds him at his most self-deprecating moment. Debiak sings, “I’m a burn-out, self reprehensible / Large crowds make living impossible / Come now, I can’t take no for an answer / Forgive me, you’re separate in memories / Forget the lies of my enemies / I don’t feel any blood in my veins,” and it becomes harder to believe that this story will resolve with a happy ending.
”Free To Be Ok” is an uplifting track where the main character realizes that his past will not define who he is. Lyrics such as “I am not the hands that they put on me / I am not the time I went to jail / I am not the man that you remember / The one that acted out and always failed,” showcase a person that wants to be a better human being, and isn’t afraid to face his demons head on. The album closer, “Someday We Will Sing Again” alludes to the concept of death and loss, but I won’t spoil the entire comic book arc for those who want to do a deeper dive into this material. I really enjoyed the lyrics in this last song of, “It’s why I always say goodbye / There’s always a feeling I may never return / Bring my heart back home again / Never to feel, just left to forget / The way your smile just haunts me now,” that ends up haunting the listener over the acoustic guitar that eventually fades out at the end of the track.
Overall, I came away impressed with the way that Mikey Way and vocalist David Debiak were able to weave this creative tale of conflict, mortality, and self-improvement into a tangled web of music and storytelling. It’s also worth noting that the production by Way’s My Chemical Romance band-mate, Ray Toro, is top-notch here and he got the best out of his musicians. While fans of the debut record may not see too much difference between the two albums, this self-titled effort rewards the listener with repeat spins that I would recommend pairing alongside the comic.