Crate-Digging Archive: My Chemical Romance – The Black Parade

The original intention of this column was to listen to all the records in my collection in alphabetical order by album title. I’ve abandoned that for the most part. But I’ll come back to it periodically.

Originally published in an embryonic stage of this column sometime in 2009. Presented here with some revision.

(Reprise, 2006)

And here I am, conflicted about My Chemical Romance. There are a million reasons why I should hate them. That sounds like hyperbole, but it’s not. There are literally a million. Legions of tweens and teens have latched on to the angsty emo-mall-punk persona that this band has cultivated throughout the 2000s, built on the reputation of two hot-gothic albums about young dark lovers on the run from vampires or something – or so says allmusic.com. So is that like the musical equivalent of the Twilight series? Sounds like it, right? Want to know how I feel about the Twilight series? Take a guess.

I contemplate suburban white American youth, and I’m a little put off. Snotty, priviledged punk-ass ingrates. I should be a curmudgeony old codger shaking my cane at these brats. And yet what am I doing? Sitting here listening to one of their flagship albums. Sigh. And the kicker? I’m enjoying it.

This despite the band’s ridiculous image (and yes, image can ruin a band for me): matching fitted black uniforms, guyliner, stompin’ boots – check, check, check. You know who the singer in the band photos because he’s bleached his hair white, and he’s the one who looks the most serious. This image is just fine for the marketing folks – and therein lies the real problem: How much does the market determine the direction My Chemical Romance takes? They’re super easy to sell, to plaster their faces on lunchboxes and their logo on t-shirts and bags and stickers. They’re a brand as much as a band, pushed to the “disaffected” and “angst-ridden” youth who eat this stuff up, mope around and pout and “get” this music. Because their lives are crap, right? Suburban, white, crap. Even though they’re better off than 85 percent of the rest of the world. Weird, ain’t it?

I’m ranting a little, I know. As much as I wanted to react with a “screw this record, screw this band, don’t waste your time” attitude, I can’t do that. Sadly, The Black Parade is actually a really good album. Not only are the songs all really well written and executed (and even though the studio work glistens, it suits), but the record conjures this nostalgia for bands and records (well, at least songs) that I didn’t know I appreciated as much as I did. Weird ones, not the ones you see plastered on the walls of Hot Topic. Queen. Thin Lizzy. Journey. Foreigner. BTO. And the record is sequenced like a freaking Guns ‘n’ Roses record (which means Teenage Me thinks it’s sequenced beautifully – I’m going to go with Teenage Me’s gut on this one). Everything here seems to be in its right place, each song in its position of strength. You’ve got the straight rockers, the anthems, the stranger interlude-y pieces, and the power ballads. It’s almost a blueprint for a Perfect Rock Record. (Easy … in sequencing, I mean.)

It’s also a concept album, and I’m not going to dig into that. I’ve already gone on too much about the target demographic, and suffice it to say, I’m sure they get it. I’ll enjoy it on a purely tactile level, I’ll leave any cerebrality to the real music journalists. From 2006. But I like songs. Who doesn’t? I can’t stand Guitar Hero, but game highlight “Dead!” is cool. “Welcome to the Black Parade” is a concept song within a concept album, and “House of Wolves,” the gypsy-tinged “Mama,” and my personal fave (for some weird reason) “Teenagers,” with its chorus of, “Teenagers scare the living shit out of me” – ha ha, it’s so freaking true! – are eminently enjoyable pompous bluster. And the hidden, minute-long bonus track “Blood” is awesome – it sounds like a 1930s piano joint about, literally, blood. It’s great.

As is the case with such overt and heart-on-sleeve albums, I’d wager that The Black Parade probably wouldn’t stand up to too many repeat listens – while the music’s great and fun and super catchy, there’s not a lot to dig into and discover – it’s all kind of out there for you to get right away. This is true for many albums by the stadium rockers mentioned above – there are only so many times you can un-ironically whistle the guitar solo to “November Rain” when it comes on the radio. Same here – the hooks bury themselves in your brain, but eventually and painfully drill into it like the comedown from a cotton candy high. But when you’re having a couple drinks at the bar and you hear Slash over the jukebox speakers deftly teasing those notes from his Les Paul, you’re like, “Aw, I love this song!” Right? That’s exactly how the tunes on Black Parade should be enjoyed for maximum impact.

Huh – this album was released on October 31, 2006. Just in time for Halloween parties that year. Very appropriate.

RIYL: Queen, Taking Back Sunday, The Used, Thrice

“WELCOME TO THE BLACK PARADE”

“TEENAGERS”

“DEAD!”

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