My Chemical Romance
The Black Parade
First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2007, Volume 14, #6
Written by John Metzger
Fri June 1, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
My Chemical Romance may have begun its life as a goth-punk outfit that was modeled after the Misfits, its home-state heroes, but on its latest endeavor The Black Parade, the band has become something far greater than anyone ever imagined it could be. Youthful angst is, of course, nothing new, but in the 36 years since Alice Cooper’s heavy metal crunch of a horror show stampeded its way up the charts with the triple punch of Love It to Death, Killer, and School’s Out, the world has become a darker, scarier place in which to live. The threat of nuclear attack from another nation has given way to terrorists who, out of a loss of hope, senselessly fly airplanes into buildings and want to detonate an atomic bomb within one of the west’s primary financial hubs, simply to make a political point. The risk of cancer has grown from a fear factor pawned by nighttime news programs into a grim reality of a polluted planet; the scourge of drugs has escalated considerably as marijuana was replaced by cocaine, then heroin, then crystal meth; and instead of aiming hunting rifles and bb guns at bottles and cans in the woods, automatic weapons are used to shoot down classmates and teachers. While death may be a natural end to life, it now assumes with greater frequency an abnormal form.
These concepts have weighed heavily upon My Chemical Romance’s work since its debut I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love. However, where many up-and-coming bands have played the dangerous game of apathetically shrugging death away while sinking into an assortment of self-destructive behaviors, My Chemical Romance immerses itself within the darkness of the world in the hope of comprehending mortality and learning how to survive. As its title suggests, The Black Parade unfolds — at least lyrically — like a long, slow march through a bleak and sunless nightmare; the underlying concept that anchors the set revolves around the tale of a man who, dying from cancer, comes to realize that he has wasted his life. It isn’t until the final track that a little of the light from above begins to seep into the story’s consciousness. "I am not afraid to keep on living/I am not afraid to walk this world alone," front man Gerard Way sings with defiance on Famous Last Words, breaking the miserable reflection that had filled the first 45 minutes of the endeavor.
Considering its subject matter as well as the grandiose theatrics employed by My Chemical Romance, The Black Parade easily could have been ruined by an air of overwrought pretentiousness, but the band maneuvers so deftly through its material that it succeeds in sidestepping the pitfalls that have sunk many like-minded outfits. With the help of co-producer Rob Cavallo — who recently played a key role in sculpting Green Day’s American Idiot — the ensemble begins The End, the opening cut on the effort, by invoking Bob Ezrin’s classic work with Pink Floyd and Alice Cooper. Yet, it also hints at the breadth of its ambitions by lacing the song with touches of Beatle-esque psychedelia and Bowie-bred glam. The rest of The Black Parade finds My Chemical Romance making good on its initial promises as it dynamically swerves through a mishmash of styles: Cancer is dressed in the textures of ELO’s pop-driven prog-rock. The taut, thunderous, heavy metal roar of This Is How I Disappear recalls, at times, Iron Maiden in all of its ominously powerful glory. Enough nods to Queen’s flamboyant majesty are tucked into every nook and cranny to resurrect Freddie Mercury, and strange as it may seem, Liza Minnelli makes a guest appearance on the Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weill-swiping, opera piece Mama.
Through it all, My Chemical Romance manages to escape from simply fawning over rock ’n‘ roll’s past. Rising above its obvious influences, the band gives its music precisely the dramatic tension and urgency that it needs, while simultaneously striking a perfect balance between the seriousness of its pursuits and the giddy delirium that comes with knowing that it has crafted a song cycle that is as over the top as it is impressive. The only misstep made by the ensemble — and it’s hardly major — is that the underlying narrative begs to be tightened slightly. Nevertheless, My Black Parade is a wholly compelling endeavor; for a death-stalked album, it also is a helluva lot of fun.
Of Further Interest...
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box