Review Summary: Alleged emo kids take to the stadiums on third and best record.
“Come on! Come all! To this tragic affair!” beckons My Chemical Romance vocalist Gerard Way on “The End.”; the opening track of this, the band’s fourth release and third studio album. It is only the start of this loosely based concept album about death, drugs, powers-that-be, bravery and love. This album has seen the band mature well beyond their years in terms of musicianship, lyricism, and especially production; working with Rob Cavallo (the rock producer behind many a great record, notably Green Day’s huge 2004 release “American Idiot”).
“The End.” is a great way to start the record, as it works like the slow part before a huge roller coaster ride. Track two is “Dead!”, easily one of the best songs on the album with its huge Maiden-esque lead guitar and a chorus drum beat that almost feels like it was written purely for moshpits. This also introduces us to the albums’ character and main concept point- a being, according to the band, known only as the Patient. “In my honest observation/during the operation/ found a complication in your heart…now you’ve got maybe two weeks to live” croons Way on the track. From this point we are seemingly taken on a journey through times in the Patient’s life that stand out to him.
As the memories differ, so do the styles and genres that the band tackles head-on. Stand-outs along the way include the band’s obscure take on rockabilly in the fantastic “House Of Wolves”, a Bohemian Rhapsody-style anthem in lead single “Welcome To The Black Parade”, and the obligatory rock ballads in “I Don’t Love You” (one of the best tracks) and “Cancer”(sadly one of the worst). However, out of all the tracks on the album, none is more odd (or enjoyable for that matter) than track nine, “Mama”. This track has everything- a mammoth chorus, a stomp/clap along part, change in time signature, creepy vocals- even a guest spot from Liza Minelli. Yes, you heard right. Liza Minelli. It’s a track that is the most different from anything the band has ever done, and would have been completely out of place on their previous two records (2002’s “I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love” and 2004’s “Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge”, which broke them into the mainstream, amidst “emo” taunts and sell-out accusations).
This all culminates with the perfect closer for a record like this: “Famous Last Words”, a heavy, driving track with remarkable vocals in the harmonies of Way and guitarists Frank Iero and Ray Toro, who provide great backing vocals throughout; and a bridge that could bring an entire stadium together.
It’s an album that’s full of surprises, especially after “…Words”. One hundred seconds after the last vocal overdub and organ is heard, a weird, twisted little sailor shanty entitled “Blood” begins, with Gerard singing and playing a honky-tonk piano. The sound is like it’s through an AM radio, and if you thought THAT was strange enough, wait until you hear the lyrics. Despite not being an official track, “Blood” takes over “Mama” in rankings of oddity.
There really is something for all fans of rock music on this record, as it encompasses so many different approaches to the format. Hardly expected of a band in their twenties who are adored by so many cookie-cutter black-clad teenagers. You would think expanding themselves so much, the band would alienate their fan base. Nevertheless, it has expanded extraordinarily with this release. Journalists who dismissed them earlier in their careers are now praising their work. Magazines and newspapers are giving them much more respect in articles on the band. The fan base now even encompasses- gasp- adults!
“The Black Parade” is what rock albums are all about- it’s serious yet still fun, it can be anthem-like and yet still intimate, it can be brilliant yet still absurd and silly. This is an incredible record that naysayers never thought this band could do, and long-time fans always knew they had in them.