On the fifth anniversary of its release, we look back on how Gerard Way's first release as a solo artist showed off a completely different character to anything that we had seen previously.
Cast your mind back to March 22, 2013. My Chemical Romance announced their breakup, stating that being in the band for the last 12 years had been a blessing. More specifically Gerard Way stated that My Chemical Romance could never truly die because it wasn’t just a band - it was an idea. There was silence for the first time in 12 years. The future of what was to come seemed foggy and uncertain. How exactly do you follow up a phenomenon?
Though in reality, the cogs were turning.
Fast-forward to September 30, 2014. There’s a flash of scruffy red hair. There’s a pristine royal blue suit. There’s been an exclusive live debut showing at Reading & Leeds Festival. There are 12 songs out in the world released under the title ‘Hesitant Alien’. This was the release of Gerard Way’s debut solo album and it was unlike anything you had heard from him before.
Dripping in distortion and overflowing with feedback, ‘Hesitant Alien’ is a record that has its toes paddling in so many different pools it may as well be a waterpark. One minute indulging in the pedal worship that made shoegaze such a phenomenon, the next barraging the senses with the troupes that helped brit-pop become such an institution. Taking cues from everyone from Blur and The Stone Roses to The Pixies and David Bowie, this is Gerard’s playground. After years of swinging from the vines of post-hardcore and emo, ‘Hesitant Alien’ was his chance to indulge his other passions. To provide his own spin on the sound and styles that made him fall in love in the first place and be associated with his heroes of yesteryear.
There’s the sneering ‘Action Cat’ and the shimmering ‘Millions’. Then you’ve got the belligerent ‘The Bureau’ and the pulsing ‘Zero Zero’. Then you throw the breezy ‘Maya The Psychic’ and beautiful ‘No Shows’ into the mix. Every song is a three-minute gemstone, a precious jewel of inspiration and ambition. An ode to a musical endeavor that struck in chord in Gerard’s soul and allowed his creative juices to flow a little bit smoother. It serves as a tribute to the past, present and future of music and the chord that it can hit deep within us all.
Imagery made up a lot of what made this era of Gerard’s musical career so iconic as well. Take the grainy fuzz of both the ‘No Shows’ and ‘Millions’ videos as prime examples. Combining the polite and inoffensive narrative of how musical television was in the mid 70’s with the exciting, yet ultimately completely off-kilter, predictions of what the future would look like as proposed by scientists at the time, they both look and feel like a relic from a completely different universe. Glitchy, colourful and incredibly bizarre in equal measures, the world that Gerard created for his music to exist in is one that feels familiar yet completely left field. There’s enough creature comforts in there for you to know what we’re dealing with, but then also enough mind-melting weirdness to feel like you’re on a completely different plain of existence. Creativity has always been a huge part of the Gerard Way DNA, and ‘Hesitant Alien’ gave it even more room to dart around and take on whatever shape it wanted to.
Oh, and of course there was Lola.
Ultimately ‘Hesitant Alien’ is a bit of everything. It’s an homage to the past and a glimpse into the future. It’s a kaleidoscopic look at a simpler time technologically, musically and atmospherically and a vision into what the future could have been like if you were led to believe everything you saw on television. Making you feel nostalgic for a time you probably weren’t even alive for, and curbing your interest in a style of music that you may not have even considered having even letting fill your ears, Gerard did exactly what he wanted with this record, and reaped the benefits in abundance. Taking inspiration from the audio, visual and sensory overloads of his childhood, adolescence and adulthood and going all in on a project that feels both brilliantly selfish and refreshingly playful, this is a record that not only scratched a very particular itch, but also welcomed an audience who only knew one side of him into a whole other part of his life.
Though this is currently the only full-length that Gerard has released under this own name, the last 12 months has seen him drop a few stand-alone bops for the first time since ‘Hesitant Alien’ first hit shelves. Whether we ever get another chapter in this story, only time will tell. Yet no matter what happens in the future, ‘Hesitant Alien’ will always be the moment that Gerard Way took on the world on his own for the first time and won.