Review Summary: My Chemical Romance take a giant step forward in musicianship but forget to bring with them everything that made them worth listening to in the first place.
Every once in a while I come across an album that I just have trouble solidifying my opinion about. I can listen to it once and think "wow, that's amazing" then put it in again 3 days later and think just the opposite. When I first listened to the Black Parade, which everyone knows by now as My Chemical Romance's groundbreaking third album, I was awestruck, quite frankly. MCR had obviously been working on their guitar playing and songwriting skills, and the Queen rip-off, while quite obvious, was nonetheless beautifully executed.
Then after the fifth time the Black Parade had finished revolving in my CD player, that feeling of impressed jubiliation I had experienced the first time had completely worn off. What happened? Did someone hack into my disc and remove the sounds that had so enthralled me the first time?
The answer didn't come to me until I re-listened to MCR's sophomore effort, "Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge". I had always found it an enjoyable album, despite being horrendously overrated by all the kids at the mall wearing MCR shirts and pretending like they were emo. But I realized that somewhere between "Three Cheers" and "Black Parade", My Chemical Romance had lost something.
The pomp grandeur of "The Black Parade" is immediately apparent as the acoustic and piano-led intro (ironically titled "The End") erupts into "Dead!", perhaps MCR's most pretentious showing of their change on the the album. Frank shows off his guitar chops in more than one solo that makes MCR's peers in the "dark pop" scene hang their heads in shame. This trend is continued in the title track, which some have labeled "the next Bohemian Rhapsody".
MCR make quick acknowledgements to their old sound with the anthemic "This is How I Disappear" and, to a lesser degree, "House of Wolves". "Teenagers", perhaps the best song on the album, brings Lynard Skynard to mind (at least IMHO) with it's catchy guitar riffing and Gerard Way's signature voice bellowing out the chorus:
They say that teenagers scare
The living sh*t out of me.
They could care less
As long as somebody bleeds.
So darken your clothes
Or strike a violent pose.
Maybe they'll leave you alone
But not me.
Although these lyrics may seem like a paradox coming from MCR, it shows the band trying very hard to step outside their box and bring something new to the table.
And herein lies the problem for My Chemical Romance. For in trying to make a new sound for themselves, they essential re-hash something we've already heard before. How many people have tried to copy Queen and Pink Floyd over the years? The second problem with the band's newfound vibe is that in trying to sound fresh and new, they ditched the sound that got fans hooked in the first place: raw, violent pop-rock with sprinklings of what some liked to call punk and hardcore. The sounds of "You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us in Prison" are nowhere to be heard on "The Black Parade". Gerard Way's voice has become unbearably dull and hardly sounds like the voice that influenced so many (including myself) to purchase "Three Cheers". My Chemical Romance was never one-of-a-kind by any stretch of the imagination. But at least they were unique enough to keep me coming back to them, albeit after long breaks.
Is "The Black Parade" still worth hearing? Certainly, provided you don't mind the rip-offs and the lack of re-listening value. But it's not the glittering work of genius the media has made it out to be. And it's certainly not My Chemical Romance like we know them.