The circumstances that led to My Chemical Romance releasing a collection of scrapped album material, known now as Conventional Weapons, could’ve come under happier situations. However, shortly after the release of the album, that was spread out over five 7-inch records (called Number One, etc.) the band would shock their rabid fanbase and music fans alike by announcing their breakup on March 22nd, 2013. I vividly remember being cautiously excited when Conventional Weapons was first announced, because I’ve seen this formula all too well when bands suddenly release all of their previously scrapped material or extended B-sides before going their separate ways. MCR unfortunately would follow down this unfortunate path, and would not reunite until their announcement was made on October 31, 2019.
Conventional Weapons being observed as a compilation of B-sides, or scrapped material, is a bit unfair since this material flows well in the 10-song sequencing and many fans still consider this to be a “fifth” studio album from My Chemical Romance. The band has even continued to incorporate many of these songs into their setlist on their US tour, so one could argue that the band still believes strongly in these tracks as well. From the aggressive opening sequence of “Boy Division” to the closing bars of “Burn Bright,” MCR made sure their legacy was left intact on this record that has started to get more notoriety over time.
Gerard Way commands the opening song, “Boy Division” from the get-go as he wails, “If all my enemies threw a party, would you light the candles? / Would you drink the wine, while watching television? / Watch the animals, all the tragedies / Sell your arteries, and buy my casket gown / It better be black, it better be tight / It better be just my size / I’m stalking these metro malls and airport halls / And all these schoolgirls / I’m not asking, you’re not telling / He’s not dead, he only looks that,” over a punk rock-based instrumentation backing. The band continued to explore some of the hard-nosed punk rock that solidified them on the scene with Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, and this song is basically a more polished up version of that sound.
”Tomorrow’s Money” continues down a similar path, with a great opening guitar riff from Ray Toro before Frank Iero adds a guitar layer into the mix. The song is a fun blast of punk rock energy and features a start and stop chorus of, “I stopped bleeding three years ago / While you keep screaming for revolution / Me and my surgeons and my street walking friends / We got no heroes, ’cause our heroes are dead.” It’s a great mix of frenetic rock bliss, paired with that same charisma times ten that My Chemical Romance went for on The Black Parade. The guitar solo by Toro at the end is just pure fun, and makes for a very memorable part in the song sequencing found on this album.
One of my favorites in the set comes on the third song called “AMBULANCE,” that features a sound similar to the bombastic rock and roll from The Black Parade paired with a superb chorus that they perfected on Danger Days. Gerard continues to keep the crowd hanging on his every lyric on the second verse of, “Remember once, you walked this kind of life quietly, I’ll sleep / Behind the wheel, and passing every face you see the first time / Singing every piece as you walk by proving that with / All of my mistakes, that we are not the same.” The song is similar to the untitled song (“Stay”) the band debuted on one of their DVDs released, but the band is able to clean up more of the rhythm parts to make the song even better in its final form.
”Gun.” follows next and features a nice steady beat from former drummer Bob Bryar, before Mikey Way adds in a nice, pulsating bass line that allows for Gerard to swoon with unparalleled swagger in the verses. The opening lines of, “Well, as soon as I get my gun / I’ll point it out the window, at the setting sun / As soon as I get my gun / I’ll tell you all about it when you fall in love / As soon as I get my gun / I’m gonna make a call / Well, as soon as I get my gun, get my gun” are oozing with confidence and it was really fun to see the band tinker with a style like this. The song arguably could’ve been included in the Danger Days album, since both the lyrical material and musical styling are very similar.
The middle section of Conventional Weapons features two swooning ballads in “The World Is Ugly” and “The Light Behind Your Eyes.” On the former, the sound is similar to “I Don’t Love You” from The Black Parade, but the buzzing of the guitar sounds in the verses would prelude the direction MCR would go for on “The Foundations of Decay.” Gerard sings cautiously on the chorus, “That the world is ugly / But you’re beautiful to me / Well are you thinking of me now?” He always leaves a glimmer of hope in his lyrics, even when this world turns out to be darker than we could ever imagine. “The Light Behind Your Eyes” is an absolutely gorgeous power ballad that demands to be listened through headphones to pick up all the intricate details that are layered through the mix. The sweeping instrumentation of a backing orchestra only adds to the cosmic allure of the song that will live on long after the band. An acoustic guitar begins the song, while Gerard sings with perfect pitch and control, “So long to all my friends / Every one of them met tragic ends / With every passing day / I’d be lying if I didn’t say / That I miss them all tonight / And if they only knew what I would say.” It’s a song about moving on, while still remembering all these people who have shaped who we are today. The song unfolds to a brilliant crescendo that makes me proud to call myself a lifetime My Chemical Romance fan, and the band was really firing on all creative cylinders on a ballad like this.
After the huge power ballad, the band choses to get back to more of the frenetic punk rock spirit on “Kiss the Ring” and “Make Room!!!!!” Each of these songs have their moments of memorability, with “Kiss The Ring”‘s best moment coming in the bridge of “Hail! Hail! / ‘Cause the king is gone / And if you don’t stop believing, we’ll keep believing / You got your leather on / And live the life that you’re making, shots that you’re taking / It doesn’t matter if the words don’t mean a thing / You gotta kiss that ring.” On the latter song, MCR continues to paint with dark, vivid colors on the chorus of, “Me and you, and all of this living dead / Burning up in the sun, where the bodies add / Sitting here with you, in misery,” before asking, “Anybody gonna come and rescue me?”
The closing duo of the bombastic “Surrender the Night” and the cautiously optimistic “Burn Bright” make for beyond worthy additions to My Chemical Romance’s bulletproof discography, and showcased a band willing to take plenty of risks in order to push their creative boundaries as well as keep their fans tuned to their core influences. Conventional Weapons may never get the same notoriety as The Black Parade or Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, or even Danger Days, but I personally consider this as an album in the story of My Chemical Romance that has songs that I believe in. My Chemical Romance provided several key weapons in their arsenal to showcase their incredible band chemistry that continues to burn bright to this very day.