You may love to rip them for what you perceive their image to be. But there’s one thing you can’t take away from the powerhouse known as My Chemical Romance: This is a group of talented musicians with a vision that refuse to apply the brakes to their imagination, creativity, and ability.
The New Jersey quintet – singer Gerard Way, bassist Mikey Way, guitarists Ray Toro and Frank Iero, drummer Bob Bryar – has pulled out all the stops for The Black Parade and has released anything but a sequel to their last material. The 13-track (14 if you want to get technical and include the “Hidden Track”) effort will leave you with a feeling like that of being in a theatre on Broadway, watching dancers and singers bring to life the latest Andrew Lloyd Weber tale.
The beginning of this journey, although entitled “The End,” is a perfect introduction as Gerard invites the listener, “Come all to this tragic affair.” Closely following the sound of a heart monitor, acoustic guitar comes patiently strumming along only to be followed soon thereafter with the gentle touch of piano keys. Staying true to form until a steady one-two, one-two-three count of the drums leads the guitars wailing in with the bass. Cymbals and finger snaps follow suit, which comes together to resemble something I would listen to on the Oldies station while riding in the car with my mother when I was younger. In my mind’s eye, the red, velvet curtains open and the show begins!
Perfectly morphing into “Dead”, you’ll bounce whether you’re on your feet or well-positioned in a chair. With some guitar lighting the match, the grubby bass and matching thuds of the drum fuel the fire and maintain the pace. When you hear Gerard wondering throughout the song, “Did you get what you deserve,” you may sense some connection to the last album; however, the lyrical flashback is where the similarity begins and ends. Things get a tad bit spicier as piano leads a section of horns in that would make Sufjan Stevens proud, only to be followed by the finale that would spark The Rockettes to break into “The Can Can”. With the adrenaline pumping right out of the gate, it’s the perfect start to this epic.
Each song from there out is a different shape, size and piece to the puzzle, but in the end all comes together to reveal one unified theme and picture. The two biggest pieces being: “Mama” and “Teenagers,” which are two of the most entertaining tracks to be released this year. “Mama,” featuring the one and only Liza Minelli (which gets just as nasty, but in a good way, as her marriage with David Gest), is what happens when you mix an Italian folk song and the dark and gritty mind of the band. “Teenagers,” opening with abrasive guitar and a sound on the border of breaking into an electric-rock hoedown, is the catchiest track on the effort and screams huge single. And then there’s also the Clap Your Hands Say Yeah-esque “Hidden Track,” with an instrumental that could soundtrack a black and white silent movie, which is one of the most interesting and surprising things I’d ever expect them to do.
After releasing the very moving “The Ghost of You,” we know they’re no stranger to the ballad. Showcasing their expertise in slowing it down, the Coldplay-resembling “I Don’t Love You,” the very straight forward and touching “Cancer,” or the fairy tale-like “Disenchanted,” will all tug on your heart strings. Where some might say Gerard doesn’t have the best voice in the world, he certainly has the only set of pipes that could front this outfit. With all the different ways he belts out and the little “tricks” he’ll do here and there (whether it’s the greasy vocals in the verses on “The Sharpest Lives,” the rolling of the tongue on “House of Wolves” — which for some odd reason reminds me of theme song from Viva La Bam, or the gallant closer “Famous Last Words”), it’s his voice that makes you feel and believe every word and truly sense the passion in what it is they’re doing and trying to accomplish.
Refusing to be pigeonholed in a genre, or even their past work, My Chemical Romance has raised the bar and set a new standard for themselves as well as their peers. Making sure not to alienate their fans and what it is they do so well, they’re still not afraid to make bets and roll the dice; and with every gamble, they nail it. While taking some influence from the likes of Queen and David Bowie, using an abundance of guitar solos and the addition of piano, My Chemical Romance shows it’s possible to give credit and learn from the past, throw all kinds of ingredients into the recipe, and still maintain your own identity. An album that will not allow it self to fit one style or mold, and just happens to be one of the most fun and creative releases this year, The Black Parade is an effort that will more than please current fans, spark the interest of music lovers in general, and bring a smile to the faces of lovers of rock from the 70s and 80s for the nostalgia value alone. I’m sorry to say it, but if you thought My Chemical Romance’s fifteen minutes were up, this is just a continuation of their world domination.