Review Summary: One mistake after another.
It's a dangerous thing for a band to follow up overblown concepts with a back-to-basics record. Thrice did it with Beggars
after their Alchemy Index
project, four ambitious albums based on the elements. It worked for them because when they stripped away the concepts and pretension, it reminded their fans of the band's songwriting prowess. While it was great to hear them try something ambitious, it was equally great for them to scale that ambition back and create an album full of great songs, nothing more. Things aren't so simple when you consider the career of My Chemical Romance, who have always based their records on stories, and thus showered them with much bombast to tell those stories. And they'd done pretty well, all things considered, especially with The Black Parade
. That album was overblown and over-dramatic, but it was also surprisingly heartfelt and uplifting. It was very creative as well, and it added a few more layers to My Chemical Romance's unpredictability as an act. The costumes, changing the band name, playing secret shows; they were having fun with their music and with their fans and that was great to see. Add to that the fact that singer Gerard Way stopped getting drunk before shows and thus vastly improved his live performances, and My Chemical Romance seemed poised to be one of music's driving forces for years to come.
Or at least they would have been if it didn't take four years to make Danger Days
. Now, it's simply hard to care about the band. They rode for too long on the success of The Black Parade
and seemingly forgot to follow up that success. So here we are four years later and I'm starting to think that maybe The Black Parade
really did exhaust their creativity. Because what we have in Danger Days
is a record that certainly wants
to live up to their previous records - it's got the stupid concept of a group of punks in 2019, it's got stupid song titles, it's got attempts at soaring melodies (that never get off the ground) - but what it doesn't have is the same amount of effort that was put into The Black Parade
. Plain and simple, this album is fu
cking lazy. Unlike Thrice's Beggars
, when you strip away the frills of My Chemical Romance's music, you start to realize just how uninspired their songwriting is. They seem to do their best when bolstered by things like huge orchestral arrangements and ridiculous backing vocals from Liza Minnelli; it enhances their creativity and forces them to live up to what's happening beyond the main band members. For this album, replace Liza Minnelli with Steve Righ" (a.k.a. the guitarist of Mindless Self Indulgence who is basically a low-grade version of Fat Mike) attempting to rap and replace choirs and string arrangements with the vocal theatrics of Gerard Way, who just isn't good enough to warrant everything he tries to do here. My Chemical Romance got rid of everything that made them unique as a band, reducing their sound to a dumb story and a punk aesthetic that never really feels genuine.
Still, the album gets off to a good start (Steve Righ"'s rapping notwithstanding). "Na Na Na" was initially a bit disconcerting as the first song released, but it's catchy enough to make you forget that they basically tried to make the chorus as annoying as possible. "Bulletproof Heart" seems fairly familiar - they go for those big choruses a bit too much - but it works . Even "SING" manages to be good even though the lyrics in the chorus are basically ripped straight from Aerosmith's "Dream On." From there, everything devolves into chaos. "Planetary (GO!)" is just awful, a synth-dominated mess of a song that feels like its various sections were pasted together with Elmer's glue. The song isn't even filler; it's somehow much worse than that. It's a song that desperately wants to be emotional, to make the listener feel something - motivation or inspiration, probably - but it falls flat on its face. It is a good indicator of the album in general. On the surface, Danger Days
is My Chemical Romance doing what they've always done, but something is definitely missing. My Chemical Romance are a band who have always tried to live up to certain punk tendencies, but they also never forgot to be interesting and to progress. The Black Parade
didn't succeed because they added one million elements to their music and tried to make it as big as possible. It succeeded because underneath all that, you still felt like there was a real band there inserting real emotions into their music, no matter how overwrought or dramatic it was sometimes.
Even a song like "Planetary (GO!)" is nothing compared to the horrid "Party Poison," in which My Chemical Romance found the most annoying Asian girl they could and told her to yell shrilly into the microphone. The song also features one of many choruses on the album that is basically Gerard Way tunelessly wailing phrases that rhyme and are barely connected at all. Not even the musicians can save the record. While previously, Ray Toro and Frank Iero kept things varied and interesting, for Danger Days
they stay in the background with generic, fast power chords beneath Gerard's ravings. The saddest thing about Danger Days
is how unmemorable it is. Whatever problems there were with their previous albums, they were still addicting because of how catchy they were and because of how many moments the band hit it out of the park. There is nothing on here that matches moments like the end of "Welcome To The Black Parade" or the chorus of "Cemetery Drive" or the soaring, chill-inducing entirety of "Helena." The songs are forgotten once they end, and thus so is the record. I find it very surprising that there was even any hype for this album after the extreme length of time it took them to get around to making it, but Danger Days
definitely isn't worth it. If nothing else, it makes me interested to see where they'll go from here, but I find it saddening that the most likely future for them seems to be a breakup after this uninspired mess of an album.