Review Summary: Much to the chagrin of most MCR fans, Gerard Way has grown up - and crafted a fantastic album to boot.
I love My Chemical Romance. Let's go ahead and get that out of the way now - I think they're a fantastic band who rarely made a misstep outside of their final album, and I was genuinely saddened to hear of their departure. Hell, as I was letting my purchase of Gerard Way's first album 'Hesitant Alien' go through, I was listening to the titular track from 'Welcome To The Black Parade', and loving it, as I always have done. If the death of My Chemical Romance means we get more music like that on 'Hesitant Alien' though? Well, I think I'm okay with that too.
This album is a hell of a departure for lead-man Gerard Way. He's always been a multi-talented lad, between the genre-shifting of My Chemical Romance and his generally well received comic book pieces, it's not that surprising that he's decided to go in an entirely different direction for his first effort away from the band that launched him to stardom; that direction is firmly britpop territory. 'Hesitant Alien' is immersed in a thick layer of distortions, grungy drums and hazy vocals that come across as almost ethereal at times. It also manages to strike a balance between the upbeat and sprightly guitars of the era, and some tracks such as 'Juarez' that are so laden with roaring guitars and deformed drum beats that you can barely make out the vocals of Way in the background. In fact, that's prevalent throughout the album. Very few tracks put Way front and central. It's a move surprisingly lacking in egotism - and maybe a small appreciation that Way isn't really a fantastic vocalist - but it leads to a wonderfully varied album that changes from song to song and allows Way to distort and fade his voice as much as he likes whilst still remaining true to the genre.
I can't pretend to know much about britpop. At 23 now, I wasn't old enough to be immersed in it as a genre during it's 90's resurgence, and I've never really delved back into the earlier iterations. But you don't have to have done either of those things to enjoy this album. It's a big slice of exciting, unique, upbeat and ridiculously catchy music that should be enjoyable to anybody who enjoys this style of music and it should be viewed as such - irrespective of your views on Way or MCR. It's a shame that a brief view at Youtube comments reveals a massive proportion of his fanbase (soon to be ex fanbase, I assume) showing a complete lack of appreciation for what Way has done here; he's grown as an artist, dropped the whiny trappings that are more suited to high school stairwells and crafted something rather great.
Between this and the upcoming synth-laden No Devotion album, it seems we're in for a bit of a resurgence of retro pop-rock hybrids. If 'Hesitant Alien' is anything to go by, it's going to be fantastic.
Maya The Psychic