All truth be told, I wasn’t an immediate fan of this little New Jersey band called My Chemical Romance that came storming onto the emo scene with I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love. If I remember right, the first song that I ever came across from MCR was an MP3 of “Vampires Will Never Hurt You,” which coincidentally was the first single to be released from the set. Whether the song caught me in a bad mood, or the fact that the emo/screamo/punk rock scene was exploding with more bands and content than my ears or brain could handle at that time, My Chemical Romance never really got its due justice in my regular music rotation. That all changed quickly when I went to Washington, DC’s legendary 9:30 Club in the summer of 2002 to check out The Used. Luckily for me, I made the wise decision to get there early and see if the openers had anything worth checking out. The very first band to take the stage had bad haircuts, fresh faces, and a lead singer rocking a studded belt while donning a leather jacket. Little did I know, I would be watching my future favorite front-man in Gerard Way, and my future all-time favorite band in My Chemical Romance grab the audience by the throat and never let go in the the short 30-minute set that featured songs from Bullets.
Bullets is not a perfect record, yet its allure is unavoidable. From being produced by Thursday’s Geoff Rickly, to the circumstances surrounding the recording process that took longer than expected due to an tooth infection from Gerard Way, the album’s true beauty comes in the raw energy these five musicians put forth in the recordings that convey such rich lyrical imagery. My Chemical Romance have always prided themselves on having music over the masquerade of fictional material, while still having a beating heart of the related events that occurred in their lives. From “Skylines and Turnstiles” being the first song the band ever wrote together, inspired by the tragedy of 9/11, Gerard Way took a long hard look at his life as a comic book writer to wanting to change the musical landscape for the foreseeable future with the creation of My Chemical Romance.
There’s a little bit of everything for fans of MCR to gravitate towards on this album. There are mosh pit ready anthems like “Headfirst For Halos” and “Our Lady of Sorrows,” that showcases the impressive guitar riffing from Ray Toro paired with the punk rock spirit of rhythm guitarist Frank Iero (who joined the band midway through the recording process), while still leaving room for a few slow jams in “Early Sunsets Over Monroeville” and the closing track (“Demolition Lovers”) that preludes the Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge record in its storytelling. Some of the mid-tempo tracks like “Drowning Lessons” and “Honey, This Mirror Isn’t Big Enough For The Two Of Us” hit their intended target more often than not, with the latter alluding to Gerard’s trouble with substance abuse as he opened with, “The amount of pills I’m taking / Counteracts the booze I’m drinking / And this vanity I’m breaking / Lets me live my life like this.”
There are only a handful of moments that don’t really click for me on this album. “This is the Best Day Ever” and “Cubicles” being the examples of songs that could’ve used a little more polish to them in order to convey the true beauty in its songwriting. These small shortcomings never really distract from the overall listening experience. Instead, they provide a nice precursor to where My Chemical Romance would take their sound next.
Like most MCR fans, I didn’t fully understand the magic that this band was capable of creating until Three Cheers was released, and only after that could I retrace the band’s steps on the material that came on Bullets. These deep dives into their older material provided some of the hints of what the band were physically capable of creating when their musical vision was perfectly coordinated with a major label push to send their music into the stratosphere at just the right moment in the genre.
The rest, as they say, is history as My Chemical Romance would reach superstardom on their subsequent records and become one of the most popular bands (if not the most popular) in our scene. The Bullets era may have been filled with awkward haircuts, curious style choices, and several nods to vampires in the album artwork and packaging (including the disc itself reading, “Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws and will result in Gerard coming to your house and sucking your blood”) yet it all makes sense now, in retrospect, for what the band was going for here. Their goal was always to become the biggest band in the world, and even if this record didn’t achieve that, it absolutely laid the groundwork for their future success.