After the release of their sophomore record, “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge”, last year, My Chemical Romance found themselves at the forefront of the very popular “emo” and “post-hardcore” genres. Compared to their first release, “I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love”, “Three Cheers” was noticeably softer in sound, but the overall feel of the music wasn’t much different. Ever since “The Black Parade” was announced, fans have been wondering if they were going to get another “Three Cheers” or an entirely different sounding album. With the actual release of “The Black Parade”, My Chemical Romance’s new record, it’s safe to say that this band is heading in a totally new direction. But, for a change, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“The Black Parade” shares a few similarities with its predecessors. Most notably, “The Black Parade” is a concept album. The story involves a man with cancer, and his life from the moment he realizes he’s going to die in the first track, ironically named “The End, ” until his final moments in “Famous Last Words.” Luckily, although the topic itself is very dark and gloomy (we are talking about death here), the band manages to not take itself too seriously. Amongst the sometimes-painful-to-listen-to tracks such as “Cancer” and “I Don’t Love You”, there are upbeat, energetic songs sprinkled throughout the album. Additionally, you could take about two songs, “This Is How I Disappear” and “The Sharpest Lives”, off this album, and they would fit perfectly on any other My Chemical Romance album. This is where the similarities end.
Let me go ahead and get one popular misconception out of the way. After listening to “The Black Parade, ” one other band comes directly to mind: Queen. At some points in the first listen of the album, one could guess the music is coming from Queen with a new vocalist. Many critics are arguing that the new album is simply a Queen rip-off. However, the album is much more than that. My Chemical Romance manages to ascend from the “rip-off” category because there is a certain level of creativity in the album that makes you think, “This is My Chemical Romance, ” although some of the songs like the Gogol Bordello-esque track, “Mama, ” are nothing like any other material the band has ever created. However, while this similarity does not take away from the music itself, it is truly the only negative the album has, as this similarity to other artists is the only problem keeping the “Black Parade” from becoming a truly “classic” album.
When all the preconceptions and misconceptions are forgotten, the album is surprisingly good. Most of “The Black Parade” is single-worthy, with many of the songs having those sing-along vocals that MCR fans are used to, such as “Dead!” which has lyrics like “And when your heart stops beating/I’ll be here wondering/Did you get what you deserve?” and an ending full of “la la la”s. The album’s first single “Welcome to the Black Parade” has another catchy chorus that sticks in the listener’s mind, along with Bob Bryar’s solemn drums echoing in the background, for days after the initial listen. The album also has some group moments, such as the chorus in “Teenagers, ” where Gerard and the boys explain how “teenagers scare the living s#&* out of me.” Throughout all of this, the guitars of Frank Iero and Ray Toro crunch and wail, although in a mainstream manner that will attract more people than the style used in their previous records. The bass in this album, provided by Gerard’s brother, Mikey Way, is very strong, although less prevalent than on previous albums.
My Chemical Romance has matured a lot from their earlier days. The vampires and zombies are gone from their lyrics and replaced with real life situations and feelings. Luckily, the cancer concept didn’t turn the entire album into a collection of agony-centric ballads, but it made the lyrics much darker while keeping some of their signature upbeat, desperate melodies while injecting new genres into MCR’s library. Overall, My Chemical Romance’s “The Black Parade” is a step in the new direction, and they’re staying on the right track.