More about: My Chemical Romance
In the mid to late 2000s there were few acts who could polarise opinion like My Chemical Romance. On one hand the band’s devoted diehards plastered their walls with posters, filled MySpace with angsty lyrics and camped for days to get to the front of their shows. On the other, punk purists lined up with rags like the Daily Mail to denounce the band as everything from posers, to a fad, to a suicide cult. But the band never relented in their drama, belief, and unwavering commitment to their fans.
Having ruled the world for a few years on the back of their titanic album The Black Parade and showering the airwaves with a number of hit singles, the New Jersey emo heroes released four albums before suddenly calling it quits in 2013. Their debut I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love was raw and rough, recorded on the cheap and with frontman Gerard Way battling an abscess as he recorded vocals. Cleaned up and polished on Warner’s Reprise imprint, follow-up Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge kept the vampiric love stories and hair-metal guitar but showed a poppier nous, and spawned the outcast anthem ‘I’m Not Okay (I Promise)’.
Going properly festival headliner massive with their third record Welcome to The Black Parade needs no introduction, having become a folk song on par with ‘Seven Nation Army’ or ‘Mr Brightside’ in the intervening years. Some ponderous years followed before a glorious, colourful reinvention on Danger Days failed to capture hearts or the airwaves with the same vigour. In 2019 My Chem came back from the dead to play a comeback show in California and have teased new music sporadically since the pandemic put the world on pause. While we all wait for the go ahead to pile into the Milton Keynes moshpit for MCR’s huge UK comeback this summer, what better time to get acquainted with some of the band’s deeper cuts?
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Proof that My Chem can do cute pop songs just as well as they do heavy metal monsters, this cut from the career-best Danger Days wears its influences on its sleeve, as Gerard and co. pilfer synths and shimmering guitar from no less than The Cure. Finding love in the scorched wasteland of California 2019, the yearning vocal is topped only by one of Ray Toro’s simplest yet most affecting guitar solos.
'Skylines and Turnstiles'
After witnessing in person the horror of September 11th 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York City, Gerard Way was moved to pursue his ambitions of being a musician, and wrote what would become one of My Chemical Romance’s formative songs. ‘Skylines and Turnstiles’ harnesses the brutal reality of the scene, both in Way’s raw vocal and the harrowing lyrics, “Hello Angel tell me where are you, Tell me where we go from here”. Rarely performed live, it remains a key touchstone in the band’s genesis.
Released as a promo single late in Danger Days album cycle, ‘Bulletproof Heart’ still feels like it never got the kudos it deserved, seeming a great fit for the final installment of the ‘Na Na Na’, ‘SING!’ music video trilogy that was left unfinished. From the punchy punk of the intro to the soaring chorus, over five minutes this epic track is an odyssey of stadium rock theatrics, a ‘Born to Run’ for the Mad Max dystopia. Introduced live with a demand to “Keep running”, the lyrics describe two lovers on the run from the “pigs” enforcing order over the apocalyptic future of Danger Days’ heroes. By the time that final chorus reaches its final euphoric peak you’ll be out of breath from the sheer exhilaration of it all.
Cast your mind back to the late 2000s and the Twilight series’ soundtracks are a juggernaut, attracting the likes of Muse, Paramore and Death Cab for Cutie to get their names next to the film phenomenon. As ‘emo’ spokesmen, it’s no surprise that My Chem were in the crosshairs of the movies’ marketing team. Rather than just turn them down, the band went ahead and wrote this scathing, punk jam poking just as much fun at themselves as their contemporaries who took the Dracula Dollar. Included as an extra track on the thrilling Danger Days, it gets bonus points for the camp opening as each band member introduces themself in turn.
In the midst of the darkness and depression documented across The Black Parade, the boys find time to do their best impression of Aerosmith’s ‘Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing’, going full stadium ballad on this glorious critique of the band’s own position in the emo industrial complex. Starting with delicate acoustic fingerpicking and lyrics that were surely the subject of thousands of MSN messenger status messages, the desperate hook finds Way wondering if he’s just “a sad song with nothing to say”. Judging by the sold-out stadiums you’re probably doing ok Gerard.
After the punishing cycle of touring The Black Parade finally wound down, My Chem reconvened with Springsteen’s producer Brendan O’Brien to record what they said would be a back to basics rock record. Conceived under the strains of a sleepless Way arriving to the studio still stained with baby vomit, the album was shelved as they felt it didn’t have that MCR spark. Once the subsequent Danger Days release calmed down, Frank Iero announced that those abandoned sessions would be let out of the vault as Conventional Weapons. ‘Boy Division’ was the first track shared and it is an absolute rager, savaging the numbing promotion of The Black Parade from the relentless and repetitive stage show down to the merchandising as the band race to smash the walls they’d built around themselves. Hair-raising hardcore, one reason it got dropped from Danger Days may be because it’s roughly a minor key inversion of ‘Bulletproof Heart’. While not quite the technicolor end of the world party that Danger Days offered, here was the proof that even when they’re not satisfied, My Chem still trample on their peers with the quality of their songwriting.
'You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us in Prison'
Another fan favourite that didn’t make the leap to music video status, Way recounts a fictional tale of a violent criminal facing the consequences of his actions as he’s apprehended and thrown in the Big House. Musically manic and lyrically escalating its harrowing detail with each couplet as our narrator realises exactly what he’s gotten himself in for, this will surely be the recipient of hundreds of fan requests if and when My Chem are finally able to make their UK comeback at their sold-out Milton Keynes shows.
'My Way Home Is Through You'
A B-side from the Black Parade era, this thumping track hinted at where the band would go next on what became Conventional Weapons. Slick production aside, ‘My Way Home Is Through You’ has more in common with the likes of ‘Boy Division’ than the doom and theatre of its parent album. Rattling in at under three minutes, the lyrics seem to preempt the weariness that would consume the band as they pummelled The Black Parade at audiences for two full years. Included here for the guitar histrionics of Mr Toro and the wonderful post chorus, “Well, my gun fires seven different shades of shit, So what's your favorite colour, punk?”
Another idea somewhat curiously dropped from Danger Days, ‘Gun’ feels like it maybe should have found its way onto the album, perhaps as a hint to how the Fabulous Killjoys ended up in such a bleak nuclear wasteland. Bouncing along on a pulsating bassline, Way eviscerates the coercion of disenfranchised young people to enlist in foreign wars, from recruits’ excitement to feel needed (“your country needs YOU”) and tracking their disillusionment as they realise “the uniform isn’t sewn, they make them like they give them out to anyone” (anyone will do) and, finally, that he’s never coming home. While the band’s politics are rarely overt in their singles, there’s no ambiguity here “But if you're watching up above They're teaching me to kill, who's teaching me to love?” Wrapped in a sugary melody that belies the fury of Way’s intent, ‘Gun’ is a treasure that deserved to be heard more widely.
Originally a hidden track at the end of the Japanese release of Danger Days, ‘Zero Percent’ found its way online as a B-side to the digital ‘Na Na Na’ single. Teasing another avenue that My Chem could have steered their apocalyptic punk, the heavily programmed drums and sequenced synths of the intro drew instant comparisons with their comrades in Mindless Self Indulgence, but the chorus is all MCR, emphatically anthemic in their unique way. Taken in the context of the world constructed around Danger Days, ‘Zero Percent’ finds the Killjoys furiously resisting the brainwashing of their corporate overlords in Better Living Industries (BLInd). “Don't need the system, We can kill them if we try, Shoot up everything we see, And we'll write it on the wall, I hope you die!”. They’re not fucking around.
'It’s Not a Fashion Statement, It’s a Fucking Deathwish'
Starting with one of Ray and Frank’s best guitar combos and thrashing hardcore drums, this firecracker packs riffs, screams and the culmination of Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge’s concept of a man sent back from hell to claim 1000 souls in exchange for a chance to reunite with his beloved. There’s an awful lot going on but it’s a live favourite and a lot of fun despite it’s gruesome subject matter.
More about: My Chemical Romance