I would like to start off by saying how astounding it is that a band can make an album with absolutely no new ideas and no creativity of their own. A lot of bands wear their influences on their sleeve (Jet = The Who, The Darkness = Queen, etc.), but very few rip off as many bands as blatantly as My Chemical Romance does on this album.
And it’s kind of hard to get mad at them about it. After all, it’s not as though they’re trying to hide anything. You’ll see what I’m talking about as you read this.
It’s been well documented that My Chemical Romance has gone through a massive image overhaul in promoting their new CD. Their entire image is mainly tied to their lead singer, Gerard Way. Up until this point, he was always seen as the stereotypical “emo” singer, all pasty skin and shaggy hair. But, leading up to this album, he has taken on a new look, and, along with it, a new persona. He says that, when he’s performing, he is no longer Gerard Way…he is “The Patient”, the focal point of the story of this new album. His once trademark long black hair (with bangs in his face) have been traded in in favor of short, bleach blonde hair. The entire band has also started dressing entirely different, all of them now adopting black marching band style uniforms, saying that they are no longer My Chemical Romance, but, rather, they are The Black Parade. This new persona is strangely similar to what The Beatles did with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, although perhaps a bit more extreme.
Musically there’s not really a new idea on the entire album. We all know of rock’s love affair with the concept album. It normally has to be about something huge and epic. Usually, the band will pull out all the steps…try things they’ve never done before, all the while telling a story that may or may not be entirely clear. But, if you listen closely enough, you can normally make out the general idea…you know, kinda like reading Shakespeare. But with guitars.
Well, My Chemical Romance have definitely done their homework with this album…perhaps a little too well. Right from the start, about a minute into the first track (purposefully ironically titled “The End”) there’s a huge crashing of guitars and keyboards…you know, just like Pink Floyd did on The Wall. In fact, if it weren’t for the other obvious references to Queen (like the huge guitar riffs) and Green Day’s American Idiot (minus, you know, the half-cocked politics in order to sell records), or even the blatant T. Rex riff-stealing “Teenagers”, you could point to Pink Floyd (mainly The Wall) as the starting point for this album.
And that’s really where it suffers. I read an interview with Way, and he described how they made the album. It sounded something like, “We really laid ourselves bare and held nothing back in making this album. We tore out our insides and put ourselves back together.” One of the guitarists, when asked, on a scale of 1-10 how difficult making this album was responded, “45…this is really the most challenging and rewarding thing I’ve ever done.”
I find that really hard to believe, and, if it is true, I feel kind of bad for the guy. So, you’re telling me that remaking The Wall (except replacing the crazy dictator guy with a guy dying of cancer) is the most challenging thing you’ve ever done in your life?
Even the vocals are Pink Floyd-esque in a number of places. From the almost cartoon background screams that make their way into a number of the songs (much like Pink Floyd would do with songs like “The Gunner’s Dream” on The Final Cut) to his Roger Waters impersonation towards the beginning of “The End” and towards the middle of “Mama” (which, although it sounds nothing like “Mother”, one can’t help but think they named it as a tribute, or some such nonsense).
The way I’m describing it makes it sound like I hate the album, and that’s not totally the case. I hate that they couldn’t come up with a single creative idea on their own. For a band “laying itself bare”, it sounds an awful lot like what a good cover band could accomplish on any given night. Is it “massive sounding”? You betcha. It sounds like it should be important, even if it doesn’t end up giving us anything new. It’s extremely well produced (as if you could expect anything less). Musically it’s a very well done album…and I don’t even hate the vocals as much as I thought I would.
It was my thought process going into it. I didn’t want to like the album. And now, as I sit here listening to it for roughly the 10th time over the past week and a half, I realize that there are parts of it that I like. It’s extremely tough to look past all the musical theft on this album though, mainly because it’s so in-your-face. There’s not a way to look past it, mostly because they didn’t care to hide it.
So maybe that gives me a reason to like it. “Yeah, we stole it. So what? That’s the music we love, and we’re going to give it the due it deserves.”
Either that or they’re just too lazy to try to cover it up.
Fairly Good Tracks: “Dead” (even though it’s obvious that they were planning to make this the single from the get-go), “Cancer”
Favorite Track: “I Don’t Love You” (far and away the best song on the album, even though they stole the opening riff from Motel…whether they know it or not)
(I will say this, though...the cover looks pretty cool.)