My Chemical Romance

Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys

Written by: TL on 29/11/2010 21:44:39

When it comes to a band like My Chemical Romance, it's fair to say that, unless you're fourteen or younger, the only cool position to assume is one voiced though phrases like "oh My Chemical Romance? I'm like so over that band". You can look in your hipster dictionary for cool paraphrasings. I base this in my observation, that the vast majority of people I talk to are in agreement when it comes to not listening to MCR anymore. Reasons range from the classic "I only liked their first two albums", over the ever-green "not since they sold out" to thinly veiled substitutes for "I got too embarassed when I realized younger people than me also liked them". For numerous and - let's be honest, mostly bullshit, pretentious - reasons, most people are never going to give the band's new album the five to ten listens they would otherwise assign to the attempt at getting into the new material from a band they still like, because that band has had the decency to stay underground and obscure enough for you to feel all special for liking them.

That whole discussion is one that could easily overtake an entire review of a band like this, however, I am compelled to not bash my head against that wall, simply because it would be a God damned shame, if for no other reason then for this one: Of the records I have to write reviews about, most inspire me to come up with only three or four real remarks, which I then have to elaborate on and repeat until I have something that at least looks like a substantial review - However, when I listen to "Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Kill Joys", the fourth LP from arguably the most explosive rock-phenomenon of the last decade, my head is close to exploding with things I want to pick up and talk about.

Some of this can probably be related to an observation recently made about frontman Gerard Way, when he was placed high on NME's infamous cool-list, his presence explained by him knowing that there's more to being in a great rock band than just music. That's another way for me to say that Way, the other Way, Toro and Iero, now sans drummer Bob Bryar, are at it again with making a record that, apart from the music, has also had remarkable energy put into visualizing its concept. Oh yes, there's a concept, however, it is really not much more than a reimagining of the same artists-vs-conformity showdown that sent Styx down in flames in the 80's on "Kilroy Was Here" and was overlooked by most Muse fans on the band's recent "Resistance" album. What's impressive is not so much the ideology however, as it is the sense of iconography. Really, are you going to tell me that it doesn't tickle the imagination, hearing stories set in a post-apocalyptic desert, surrounding the dark "Battery City", in which outlaws battle the oppression of the BLind ("Better Living industries") corporation, in epic laser-pistol shootouts with white-clad security forces and vampire-mask-bearing exterminators? I bet you those masks and those ray guns will remind people of this album for a long time to come.

And about this album - I guess we should talk about it's music, here, a good review's length into the review... - to write it off as being secondary to all the imagery, or stuffed with inferior choruses compared to the mega-success of "The Black Parade", you'd have to content yourself with forming your opinion on too little and too shallow listening to the actual songs. I stress this because it really is all too easy to notice that the choruses on "Danger Days" are not super-sized like the ones on "Parade" and then leave it at that. The fact is, that if you listen, you could discover that MCR have done what bands like theirs need to do, namely they've become an entirely new animal on their new record, while still retaining the recognizable features that made them good in the first place.

For this release, MCR have substituted gloomy black and goth-punk, for all the colours of the rainbow and glam-punk, hopefully removing every wrongful emo-association that big-media ever managed to pin on them. While still certainly intense and energetic, you get the feeling that Gerard Way doesn't sing as much from a personal sense of desperation anymore, as from a point of indignation on behalf of a world he sees as having been pacified by cultural conformity. Ironic as this may seem to all of you who have MCR pegged as a "mainstream" band, the notion actually falls nicely in line with observations you can make about the instrumentation on here. There are of course megalithic anthems on offer, but there's an equal number of up-beat songs, all build around a back bone classically combined from attitude-filled punk'n'roll riffs and angry rhythms (see for instance: "Party Poison"). There are easily singalong-able choruses, sure, but there's a also a surprising number of back-handed non-choruses, seemingly removing focus from Gerard's lead vocals, onto the more combined effort of all band members. Just listen to "Na Na Na" and "Planetary (GO)", both of which are more driven by the energetic overall composition, than by the sections you'd normally call choruses.

Something to factor in is, that whether MCR are playing anthems or punk-songs, they seem to be at a point where having a good song and a catchy chorus is only a starting point, and that before a track is done, it must undergo treatment according to the band's excessive aesthetics. This makes for fuckloads of ambience, keyboard melodies and other production tricks, adding extra atmosphere to the songs, before you even get around to talking about what normally grabs the listeners attention. That would be the singing, and in this department, everything is exactly as it has always been for this band, only with the added improvement of more career-years piled on Gerard Way's experience. The singer imbues each and every word of each and every song with a presence many others should envy, making any given moment into a representation of the message he hopes to bring across.

So anyway, this review is already mega-long, and I haven't even talked about the vintage air-guitar-inspiring solos of Ray Toro, or of the badassery of renegade radio-presenter Dr. Death-Defying, transmitted during the sequences he occupies before some select songs, or about the cheeky feedback-explosion that substitutes the last note of the version of America's national anthem, which precedes the almost Queens Of The Stone Age-like album closer "Vampire Money". For crying out loud, I haven't even talked about which songs are highlights and which aren't. I guess it only speaks of how much faith I have in people actually giving MCR a fair shot these days. I also guess it means I'll be sounding off right about now, only with one last feeble recommendation: Check this album out will you? If for no other reason then because when it comes to things you can love, hate, or discuss to death, this album has an unlikely wealth of them to be discovered. If not even for that reason, then because as far as this reviewer is concerned, this album has gotten better and better with each listen, moving from a dud to a rocket which just might take MCR for a ride right back into relevancy. If not in your book then maybe in that of your still open-minded little sister.

Download: "Na Na Na", "Sing", "The Only Hope For Me Is You", "Save Yourself, I'll Hold Them Back"
For The Fans Of: Lostprophets, Queen, 30 Seconds To Mars, Green Day, rock operas, hating on conformity, preserving your inner child,

Release Date 19.11.2010
Reprise / Warner / Eyeball

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