Review Summary: Evolution is key
The Black Parade is not just a normal album.
Sure, it has the bells and whistles of any other rock album; Sappy ballad(s)? Check. Energetic riffs? Check. Anthem-like choruses that you know were made for live performances? Check.
Even so, other bands have made albums just like this back in the 70's and 80's, and they made it better. Queen inspiration is littered throughout the entire album. And you may never get the feeling you will get when you first heard "Bohemian Rhapsody" or the energy felt in "Somebody To Love". So why is an album like this getting an excellent rating if it fails to recapture the "epic" feel it's aiming for?
My Chemical Romance isn't just another band to me, from singing "Cancer" to my friend's sister the night before she passed because it was her favorite song, to seeing people you'd never expect to listen to MCR singing along to "Teenagers" at a pep rally. From hearing the piano intro of "Welcome To The Black Parade" on the radio for the first time that had me hooked on music in general, "The Black Parade" has always held a special place in my heart. Despite the opening statements, "The Black Parade" is one of the most important rock albums of this generation.
In the wake of Green Day's "American Idiot" rock music began to fall into a rut. No one wanted to make music for fun. instead,, everyone tried to make that one hit single that would be be able to be placed in the same rotation as "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams" and failed miserably. It would be almost two years before anything significant could compare to Green Day's massive Rock-Opera, and that would be the Rock-Opera of "The Black Parade."
The concept album opens up with the one-two punch that is "The End" and "Dead!" "The End" opens up with a single acoustic guitar playing over a lifeline, setting up a general theme in the album - death. Soon after the intro we are introduced to Gerard Way, who ironically sounds as lively as he would ever be, singing his heart out. Despite the unhappy theme, everything within the first minute you are introduced to the same energetic band you heard in "Three Cheers" putting more passion in this album than any preceding album. "Dead!" follows suit of this really introduces us to the new sound the band pushes for. The song opens up with a really catchy solo and proceeds with a really infectious beat that will have you involuntarily tapping your foot and goes into a chorus that makes you want to sing along. Despite the silly outro involving the use of "La La La's" the song effectively shows off how this band evolved in a matter of 2 years, before any of the following songs start up.
"This Is How I Disappear" and "The Sharpest Lives" are the two songs that are a nice throwback to the older albums to compliment the evolution the band has made. The one problem is they sound like they could be one song and being bookended by two of the biggest singles on the album ensures that you unfortunately would not pay much mind to them after they end.
"Welcome To The Black Parade" is probably the most overplayed rock song next to come out in the 2000's next to "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams" but it's for good reason. The first time I heard the song on the radio I mistaken it for a Queen song I haven't heard before. The now famous piano introduction plays as Way sings almost like a child about his experience of a marching band with his father, before erupting with the rest of the band singing the same verse with power. The anthem-like intro then shifts to a upbeat rock song that you can't help but do any type of movement along to go with it. The song then shifts back into a marching band style bridge before shifting back to the chorus and then shifting AGAIN. By the end of the 5 minutes you realize what you just heard, what bands attempt to do in an entire album was just completed in one song. If it wasn't for its heavy rotation the song wouldn't be as hated as much as it is by critics, labeling the band "sell outs" for this one song. For most though, this song shows what My Chemical Romance can accomplish not just as musicians, but as artists.
"I Don't Love You" is the first ballad on the album, the upbeat pop tempo is scaled back in favor of emotion. Despite the fact the song's lyrics could be written by a pissy 13 year old who lost his girlfriend of 2 weeks, it is okay at best, nothing that hasn't been before by alternative artists 10 years prior. This and "Disenchanted" are among the weak links of an extremely good album.
"House Of Wolves" comes back with flare and raw musicianship. The entire band really went all out for this one, the drum beat could almost be dance-able and the whole song does not hold back in speed or power. The end guitar work is a really nice touch that makes this song stand out as a major highlight of the entire 50 minute album.
"Cancer" once again slows down and proves to be the definition of a ballad done right. Sure, the lyrics could be considered laughable to some ("Baby I'm just soggy from the chemo") but it strikes a chord with many people. Way singing "The hardest part of this, is leaving you" could be tear inducing when you're in a moment that you could lose someone. The song is an excellent example that even without being all flashy the band is capable of writing a strong song.
"Mama" opens up with what sounds like war going though your speakers. "Mama, we all go to Hell" is muttered and said multiple times as everything mends nicely in time for the chorus. Like "House Of Wolves" the song is a highlight due to how it's different from the rest of the album. In an album riddled with heavy hitting singles, the smaller songs give this album its replay value in that you don't want to skip them. Really appreciating the entire experience and story of "The Black Parade." in the process.
"Sleep" opens up with a piano intro and has Way's strongest vocal performance on the album, you feel almost every word he says hit you. The song does not really pick up until the end though, so don't go in expecting anything other than good vocals for the most part.
"Teenagers" is yet another single and maybe the most popular song on the album, and rightfully so. It's pretty hard to find any teen that DOESN'T know how the chorus goes, the message about today's teens is loud and clear as it is said over the most energetic guitar work that leads to a solo that sounds ripped out of a 70's arena rock group. The use of cowbell and group singing the chorus towards makes this the most fun track on the entire album.
"Famous Last Words" is the closer to the entire album and the final single. Where as "Dead!" was upbeat and energetic, the closer is slower and more sinister sounding. An odd contrast as a good amount of the album makes death seem celebratory. "Famous Last Words" wasn't the biggest single but it's an exceptional close to a unique album. By the end of the album you would have noticed it wasn't even an hour long. It's not without its flaws but there's emotions and hard work pouring out of the biggest album of 2006. It launched MCR into the real mainstream and despite the band losing focus in the following album, this is a reminder that change is good if the band evolves from it.