CD Review: My Chemical Romance fearless on new release

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My Chemical Romance has made the record that will define their career. The Black Parade symbolizes the transformation of a band that would have been easy to write off just a year ago.

Following the release of 2004’s Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge—a record wrought with dark imagery of death and strife—band members have been plastered across Tiger Beat-style teen magazines that implore swooning 14-year-olds to discover who the band has “been kissing lately.” Sure, it’s a far leap from the mausoleums and vampires that lead vocalist Gerard Way is accustomed to singing about, but amidst that pre-pubescent fanfare, it was easy for music critics to ignore what many assumed would just be a passing fad.

2006 has made it clear that if Three Cheers… was a fad, then The Black Parade is a revolution.

Instead of the post-hardcore sound that gained them respect among fans of bands such as Thursday and The Used, The Black Parade embraces a vintage classic rock vibe more reminiscent of Cheap Trick and Queen than any band on the Warped Tour. What saves MCR’s credibility is the simple fact that though they’ve branched out sonically, they’ve stayed true to their lyrical and stylistic roots. Produced by Rob Cavallo (Green Day, Jawbreaker), the latest effort is still littered with references to death and debauchery, but this time it is backed by booming guitar solos and crisp melodies.

It is a work only truly appreciated or understood as an album. Simply listening to one or two tracks will not suffice. Telling the story of a man who, in the moment of his death, sees his life flash before his eyes, The Black Parade spends its 14 tracks developing a roster of unique characters. The bulk of those characters are family members, most of whom, through their interactions with the protagonist, seem to remind him of the pain and regret that drove him to his sad state.

Those well-articulated interactions are what give the record its shape. With a clear plot and well-defined theatrical elements, listeners cannot help but be consumed by the grandiose drama. Beginning with ignored pleas for help (“The End”) and followed by death (the predictably titled “Dead!”), each track acts like a chapter of a book. Reliving his life’s greatest fears and failures, the unnamed main character recalls the emotions evoked by broken promises, disease and abandonment, among others. The story eventually comes full circle in “Famous Last Words,” a track that is easily the most optimistic the band has ever recorded, with Way convincingly shouting, “I am not afraid to keep on living/I am not afraid to walk this world alone.”

That moment of clarity and hope—even while greeting death—reveals a band that, while not abandoning their roots, proves their reluctance to rest on their laurels. Though teen magazine covers won’t likely cease anytime soon, the fearlessness of The Black Parade ensures that My Chemical Romance’s career won’t either.

From the Dec. 27 2006-Jan. 2, 2007, issue

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