When talking about My Chemical Romance, I should probably start with the beginning. I was introduced to them through the song "I'm Not Okay", and I instantly wrote them off as just another worthless emo band. But then I heard their next single, "Helena", and I was swayed to change my mind about this band entirely.
I love this song. And I love the music video, which is, to this day, the very best music video I've ever seen. Not just for this band, I mean ever. It floored me when I first saw it, and it continues to floor me whenever I rewatch it today. I loved the song so much that, despite hating their previous single, I went out and bought the album Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge soon after.
Three Cheers is an almost perfect album, with "I'm Not Okay", ironically enough, being the only song holding it back from absolute perfection. And even then, over the years, even that song has somewhat grown on me, though I do still tend to skip it from time to time. But my god, everything else on this album is just brilliant. It's a modern day rock album unlike any other. Each and every song is like a drug, addicting in their own ways. So much so that, as I admitted to my brother upon graduating, this album helped get me through boot camp, despite not actually being able to literally listen to it. All of the songs were etched into my brain, and there was rarely a night when these songs weren't blaring in my head, keeping me awake as I stood my post on firewatch.
It was also the military that introduced me to MCR's earlier works. A buddy of mine let me borrow their first CD, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love. You can see where their sound for the Three Cheers album started here, though there's more of a grunginess to it's overall production. I like the album, though there are a few songs, particularly in the second half, which are a bit dull, a trait that would rear its head in one of their later albums.
But the boring songs are completely offset by some of the most powerful music I have ever heard. None more so than "Skylines and Turnstiles". Going back to My Chemical Romance's origins, the band's frontman, Gerard Way, was originally going to be a cartoonist, and even had something lined up with Cartoon Network at one time. But then 9/11 happened and changed all of that. Impacted by the travesty, he decided to take a different rout with his life, which ultimately lead to the formation of the band My Chemical Romance. The reason I mention all of this is because the song "Skylines and Turnstiles" is based on the events that happened during 9/11. And you can just feel the raw, overwhelming power that this song emotes. Even if this were the only good song on it, the album would still be entirely worth it just for that one song, that's how good it is.
As I said before, you can hear the natural progression from Bullets to Three Cheers. And that natural progression is always at hand from one album to the next. But the thing about these guys is that they're not always just churning out the same thing over and over again like some bands do. This band completely revamps their style and completely redefines themselves as a band over and over again, all while still managing to remain true to their roots. And in doing so, each new album has its very own original identity. And that originality never rings truer than with their third album, The Black Parade.
Essentially a concept album, The Black Parade tries out a variety of different sounds. Some of them work better than others, though none of them are particularly bad. And through each song is a new piece to a bigger story at hand here about a dying cancer patient. In many ways this album feels like it's tailor made to be a musical, and that never feels more true than once you have a listen to the live version, The Black Parade is Dead!.
As good as these guys are in the studio, they may very well be even better live. And unlike most bands who perform live, their songs don't just sound like live versions of what you hear on the CD. My assessment that they revamp their music carries over onto the stage as well, as they manage to breath an entirely new life into all of their songs. Yes, they're essentially the same songs, but they're performed in such a way that they become their own entity altogether. For instance, listening to the studio version of "Welcome to the Black Parade" versus the live version sounds like listening to two entirely different songs. They're both fantastic, and the lyrics and music are all the same. But the live performance manages to bring this song, and all their others, to life in a such a way that I can't even really find the right words to explain.
Their latest album is Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. It takes off of one of the many established sounds produced in The Black Parade, most notably from the song "Famous Last Words", and pretty much runs with it. It's not the sound I would have preferred, though they manage to make it work to some brilliant effects. This is the album I alluded to before when I said that, like the first, it has a tendency to be bland at parts. There are also pointless skit tracks throughout that really kill the momentum of this album, one of which randomly includes the American national anthem, which just feels really out of place. But also similar to the first album, there are some extremely powerful songs at play here. "Bulletproof Heart" and "The Only Hope for Me Is You" both manage to rise high above the rest as the stand outs on this album, and express a similar emotional energy found in "Skylines and Turnstiles".
Overall, this band has become one of, if not my absolute favorite bands of all time. All of their albums are good, and one is the closest to being perfect that I've probably ever heard. They're a fun, energetic, and powerful band, one that deserves a lot more recognition than they currently receive. I do think that the thing that hurts this band the most is the "emo" label they've been stuck with, but I personally don't think that this label is an accurate fit. It all started at the beginning with their first big single, "I'm Not Okay", which also just so happens to be their only real "emo" song. Perhaps it's just an example of a bad first impression, which I can totally relate to. After all, my first impression of this band wasn't a good one, either. But I couldn't be happier to have given this band a much deserved second chance, because otherwise I would have missed out on some of the best music in this day and age.
I originally thought to write this blog as I was compiling a list of my personal top 10 best My Chemical Romance songs. I didn't arrange them in order from best to worst, but rather, in my preferred listening order. And looking at some of the song titles, it's almost refreshing how, especially in their in their earlier works, they didn't just name their songs based on the lyrics in the chorus. Just another little thing that I've grown to love about the band. So if you really want an idea of what it is about this band that makes me love them so much, then have a listen to some of these brilliant songs.
"Welcome to the Black Parade" - The Black Parade
"Helena" - Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge
"House of Wolves" - The Black Parade
"You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us in Prison" - Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge
"Bulletproof Heart" - Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys
"Honey, This Mirror Isn't Big Enough for the Two of Us" - I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love
"Dead!" - The Black Parade
"Thank You for the Venom" - Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge
"Skylines and Turnstiles" - I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love
"The Only Hope for Me Is You" - Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys