Killjoys, listen up! Here's what we learned from hearing the new My Chemical Romance album 'Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys'. Fans and haters alike, come and see what they've created...
I sat down and listened to the My Chemical Romance album this morning. And this is what I learned…
1. This isn’t the stripped-back garage rock album they initially said they wanted to make…
By now ‘Na Na Na’ has slammed its way around the internet like everyone knew it would, and Gerard Way’s pre-release chat about how thrashy and punky the record was going to be appears to have been borne out… except it hasn’t. Yeah, the aforementioned tune (which is the album’s opening track proper), ‘Party Poison’, Save Yourself, I’ll Hold Them Back’ and ‘DESTROYA’ all sound like some hyperspace version of The Stooges, especially with Way’s none-more-snotty vocals and Ray Toro’s squealing guitar pockmarking everything, but the overall pace of the album is slower than some might have anticipated. Is that a bad thing? Metamorphosing from stadium-bound pomp-rockers directly into speed-punk thrash bastards would have been a step too far and could, arguably, have felt like they were shedding their skin without any coherent rhyme or reason, but the way they’ve used everything they learned on ‘The Black Parade’ and tightened up in certain places feels natural and confident.
2. …but that doesn’t matter at all.
Musically, MCR know how to write a chorus or two. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call an understatement. Where ‘The Black Parade’ was grand in concept, scope and tone, ‘Danger Days…’ is less histrionic, and the band’s approach pays dividends. ‘Bulletproof Heart’ is a glorious anthem spattered with strings and canyon-sized drums, and Gerard’s exhortations to “Sing it for the boys, sing it for the girls” won’t feel at home until they’re booming out of a festival-sized PA next summer. Same with ‘Planetary (GO!)’, which uses drum machines and a few dabbed synths to push the band into different directions than they’ve been previously.
3. This album doesn’t tell the full story of the Killjoys.
Attentive fans will have worked their way around the web already, filling in the narrative blanks, but here’s what we know thus far: set in 2019, the album is effectively guided by Dr Death – he’s the voice at the beginning of ‘Na Na Na’ – who broadcasts via radio to the Killjoys. Someone called S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W is involved (he took the mugshots the band plastered on their website) and the whole thing is some twisted view of a future America; the closing track ‘Vampire Money’ makes that clear, and we’re not going to spoil the surprise of just how it does that. Moreover, Way has teamed up with artist Becky Cloonan and writer Shaun Simon to produce a comic book also called ‘The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys’ – this won’t just tell the same story of the album in a different format but will, we’re betting, accompany the narrative and help fans to get a more rounded view of the story on the record. What we’re seeing, essentially, is the creativity of the band taking flight musically, graphically and literally.
4. The band have been experimenting in the studio.
On a first listen, ‘SING’ and the opening to ‘The Kids From Yesterday’ jar because… well… they’re very electronic-based. There are new sounds and new tones everywhere on the record, and the melding of keyboards, alarms, drum machines and all sorts of electronic paraphernalia – probably whatever they could get their hands on and thought might sound good – makes ‘Danger Days…’ sound nothing whatsoever like previous MCR releases. But give them a little time and it all makes a lot more sense, because what the band have tried to do is create a whole new aesthetic, which is why the imagery marks a clean break from everything they used to be.
5. They really like The Cure
‘Summertime’ is so ridiculously similar to late-period The Cure it’s tempting to make loads of snide comments about goths, but writing MCR off as emos is just as congenitally fucking dumb as writing The Cure off as goths. So don’t do it, internet.
6. ‘Danger Days’ will take flight on a massive scale
‘S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W’, ‘Planetary (GO!) and ‘Bulletproof Heart’ are, as I mentioned before, FUCKING GIGANTIC TUNES. And not in a Black Parade-esque ‘Let’s chuck everything at the song and hope it all works out’ way but in the sense that the band have really worked hard on creating songs that boom and heave. Considering they’re a shoe-in for summer festivals in 2011 I reckon they’ll come up with a production that fits the album – not in the sense of sheer, crass size but in the same aesthetic world so the performances will be as much of the Killjoy spectacle as the album and the comic book. Does that sound cool to you? It sounds cool as balls to me.
7. They’re having a hell of a lot of fun
Here’s what a lot of people don’t get: My Chemical Romance are a band. They are not a cult, a phenomenon or anything else, they are some dudes who play some music and play some shows. On ‘Three Cheers…’ and ‘The Black Parade’ that got forgotten, probably by them and definitely by the world at large as they were held up as leaders of a forgotten youth or some such bollocks. The heaviness of the themes on ‘The Black Parade’ and the surrounding media circus that swirled around the band’s every step couldn’t be any further in the past – a comic-book narrative rendered in eye-wateringly bright colours set in the future, for fuck’s sake! This is meant to be the band responsible for every drop of adolescent misery! And one listen to ‘Na Na Na’ rams the point home – it’s a joyous explosion of sound that feels so fun because it’s liberated from having to be meaningful. They’re telling a story, and there’s a beauty in that simplicity.
This isn’t our review of ‘Danger Days’ – that’s coming in a future issue of Rock Sound.