Gerard Way

Hesitant Alien

Written by: TL on 30/09/2014 20:05:08

With the disbanding of My Chemical Romance an era ended, perhaps marking the dissolution of the last global rock'n'roll myth to substantiate as the music scene moved towards a state where people recognise artists way sooner, yet also move their attention on sooner to the next thing. Riding off into the sunset not far from their top, it will likely remain worth wondering what really inspired the band's sundering. One suggestion found online is that frontman Gerard Way supposedly felt like he had said what he wanted with the band's mega-album "The Black Parade", yet here he is back with his first album released under his own name.

On his own, what Way has cooked up is a collection of eleven tracks that showcase an eclectic blend of inspirations. "The Bureau" opens like an indie rock band wanting to set an epic and dystopian tone, but the songstructures that follow are poppy and straight as arrows, with the common denominator being fuzzy guitar sounds borrowed from noisy shoegaze, and Way's vocals similarly stylistically retracted to a withdrawn centre of the sound, where the fringes of the guitar noises blur him over in a manner that sounds intentionally lo-fi. It starts out decently, with single choice "No Shows" having a certain catchyness in both backing vocals, chorus, solo and bridge vocals, while the following "Brother" introduces a more dramatic piano sound and hints a atmosphere-setting style that My Chem fans should find familar. With the following foursome "Millions", "Zero Zero", "Juarez" and "Drugstore Perfume" however, the wheels gradually come off, partially because the almost stubbornly invaried drumming actually subtracts dynamics and drags the songs toward a very ordinary and safe level of energy.

You get the feeling that Way has turned his cabinet of influences upside down and reached for most of what came out on here, as the songs primarily stand apart by staggering schizophrenically from one stylistic quirk to the other. Terms like punk, indie, shoegaze and brit-pop have been thrown around in other reviews, and not without justification, but it's hard not think back to the similarly eclectic "Danger Days" that capped off Way's run with MCR, and notice that the songs on there did much more underneath their various stylistic feathers. On here, each cut seems like a new pose Way wants to strike, as if to say "I can also be this", but the beats and melodies that are the bricks and mortar are simple to the point of blandness, and the same mostly goes for their arrangements. And although the dramatic appeal does return on the penultimate "How It's Going To Be", which has some exotic 80's style keyboards gushing towards the end, it doesn't redeem the impression that "Hesitant Alien" is ultimately a superficial record.

Say an album consists of three levels: The stylistic tone, the attraction of the actual compositions and finally the lyrical content. Gerard Way's debut effort then sadly lacks in the second department to the point where the listener is hardly inspired to dive into the third. It's unique and multi-faceted enough in the first to be more interesting than flat mediocrity, but beyond that it lacks the movements and urgency that you could for instance find by looking to Way's former band. You feel like he's wanted to innovate by bringing his glam-punk attitude to artistically distanced lo-fi land, yet have stepped in that genre's most obvious traps on the way. Normally then, I would reach for the "Emperor's New Clothes" argument, but actually the wrappings here are colorful enough. It's the stuff underneath that's somewhat disappointingly ordinary, and the expiration date is hence predicted as being a lot shorter than what you would hope for from someone as accomplished as Way.


Download: Brother, No Shows, How It's Going To Be
For The Fans Of: Suede, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Mansions, Spycatcher

Release date 29.09.2014
Warner Bros. / Reprise Records

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