Review Summary: Album of 2006 contender takes huge risks, brings together multiple forms of rock music and adds anthemic hooks to theatrical & experimental numbers which should see them attracting a newer audience, while still pleasing loyal fans.
Any gambler or investor will vouch that with greater risk comes the possibility of greater reward. But if there was no downside to taking more risk then we would all be richer than we currently are. There is a reason why risk is so dangerous, whether it be less chance of a favorable outcome or a greater loss if things don’t go your way. In the music industry, both hold true, but especially the latter. This is because when an established band takes a huge risk to do something different from what their fans are used to, it could result in losing some of those loyalists while not gaining many new followers. Fortunately, that did not occur with My Chemical Romance’s 3rd album ‘The Black Parade’.
It’s actually quite strange that I have already stated that My Chemical Romance (MCR) have done something “different” with this release as many of the album’s detractors suggest that while this is indeed a departure from their previous work, the band have too liberally loaned from artists of the past. The influences are apparent; Everything from Queen to Pink Floyd... From the theatrical David Bowie to the arena rock of Bon Jovi. However, I don’t see much of an issue here as it isn’t one artist that has been ripped off and there is nothing nearing an identical facsimile for mine.
This album can be categorized as a ‘Rock Opera’ of sorts, which also brings to mind The Who. As with their first 2 efforts, MCR have decided to make this a concept album. The rough explanation is that a character known as ‘The Patient’ dies at the beginning of the LP and reflects upon his life through the included songs. The theatrical aspect of the album is immediately highlighted with the sub 2 minute opener, oxymoronically titled ‘The End’, as lead vocalist Gerard Way plays the Master of Ceremonies in what is an effective acoustic track that builds momentum before exploding into it’s accompanying piece titled ‘Dead’. A relatively short raucous rocker, the song also comes complete with “la la la’s” and a guitar solo!
Wisely, the rock aspect continues and hits new levels in the next track “How I Disappear”, which is not only one of the heavier songs on the album, but also one of the most catchy. This song, along with track 7 ‘House of Wolves’ show one of MCR’s improvements on this album as they are able to successfully subtly adjust from a more punk influenced rock to that of the arena hard rock variety. The intensity is kept up in these tracks, but there is greater variety and accessibility which should result in both newer and older fans being pleased.
The centerpiece of the album is the 1st single and pseudo-title track ‘Welcome to the Black Parade’ (track 5). As good as the first 4 songs are, they almost seem to set up this song which begins with piano and effective vocals, before marching-band like drums propel it forwards until the pace picks up at approximately the 2 minute mark. It’s a piece that proves that MCR have matured as they know exactly when to be patient and then let rip. The audience is practically in the palm of their hand here and this clearly Queen inspired track is both classic and memorable as a result.
Elsewhere, there is a nice mix of everything. Nothing is played too safely and while there are clearly some tracks that individual listeners will dislike, they are all above average and play their part in the big picture. There are the effective ballads which show how much Gerard Way has improved as a singer (‘I Don’t Love You’, ‘Sleep’ & ‘Disenchanted’). There are the experimental numbers which may be harsh on first listen, but ultimately add variety (‘The Sharpest Lives’, ‘Cancer’, ‘Mama’ & hidden track ‘Blood’). And there are the immediate mainstream magnets which should earn MCR some newer fans (‘Teenagers’ & ‘Famous Last Words’).
It all makes for a nice package in totality that deservedly put this 3rd release by the band up there in album of the year contention in 2006. The real accomplishment of this album is how well it has brought together all forms of rock music in one offering. There are clearly some punk and emo leanings from the band’s back catalogue. There are traces of metal in the riffs, as well as hard-rock from the 1980’s. And there is also some soft-rock and arena-rock from the 1970’s as well. At worst, there simply has to be something here that someone likes. At best, for those who like to listen to a mixture of rock music, there is simply not a bad track amongst this lot.
Even excluding the genre discussion, MCR have improved here with both the vocals and musicianship clearly progressing. They have provided a hooky and anthemic sing-along accessibility to their rockers, while satisfactorily providing vibrancy and positivism to what are essentially dark and depressing subjects. As a result, it should see them attract a new audience. Of course, that is if said audience can put away their preconceptions of the band in the first place. MCR deserve that to occur… They deserve the public to be brave and embrace their sound. It’s only fitting since the band has been so brave in taking a risk with this release!
Recommended Tracks: Welcome to the Black Parade, Famous Last Words, I Don’t Love You, Teenagers & How I Disappear.