My Chemical Romance - The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys
Record Label: Reprise Records
Release Date: November 19, 2010
My Chemical Romance have been saddled with a variety of different labels over the course of their careers. Emo was popular with the ignorant, gimmick with the unimaginative. But one that never stuck is probably the best description of the band I can come up with: pure, uninhibited rock and roll. While each album carried with it an underlying concept that helped to spice things up a bit, My Chemical Romance routinely infused every track therein with raw emotion and inspirational passion. Unfortunately, their flair for the dramatic gained as many haters as it did lovers, and they became a very polarizing band even during their formative years.
I'm not going to lie, My Chemical Romance has been one of my favorite acts since discovering Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge in high school. A clever mix of graphic imagery and teenage rebellion, it hit me harder than any album had before. I soon grew out of the weird phase that made them idols to me in the first place, but I was happy to see that the band was maturing with me. Their next release, The Black Parade, kept every bit of that cinematic magic while expanding their sound. The theatrical influences of older bands like Pink Floyd and Queen shone through beautifully as My Chemical Romance crafted yet another world for their fans to fall into.
So with the announcement of Danger Days, it seemed My Chemical Romance was well on their way to another smash hit. Seemingly set in a post-apocalyptic California, the individual members of the band adopted the persona of a group of rock and roll rebels that go by the name The Fabulous Killjoys. While few hints of the concept make their way into the album, the sun bleached intensity of it all really shines through at key moments in the album. The ridiculously named “Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)” provides an excellent introduction to Danger Days and the world it represents. While the titular backing vocals are a bit grating when they first explode onto the track, the foundation they form behind Gerard Way's own vocal talent gives the song a jumping and enjoyable rhythm. “Bulletproof Heart” follows close behind the first single, and softens the adrenaline a bit in preparation for the rest of the album. Still incredibly upbeat and catchy, “Bulletproof Heart” is probably the deepest track on the album. The landscape it creates through both the music and Way's ever-improving lyric writing is beautiful and encapsulates the overall theme and atmosphere of the album.
But that's not to say I was entirely happy with this album from the onset. Many of the tracks suffer under the burden of over-production. “Planetary (GO!)” and “The Kids from Yesterday” in particular feel weighed down without any sense of depth. The individual band members play their parts wonderfully, but are overshadowed by a cacophony of sound effects and odd mixing choices. While the production definitely gives the album its own unique sound and fits with the adventurous concept, it draws too much attention away from how talented these musicians really are.
Before starting work on Danger Days, My Chemical Romance was interested in putting out a straightforward and stripped down rock album, but that project was eventually scrapped. Fortunately, a few of those seemingly made their way to this release. “Party Poison,” a song originally performed as “Death Before Disco,” is one of the best songs on the album. Although it's punctuated occasionally with the shrill voice of a woman screaming something in Japanese, “Party Poison” really makes its presence known with impressive showings by each member of the band. Vocalist Gerard Way sings and screams his way through the choruses with ease, while guitarists Ray Toro and Frank Iero combine their unique styles with an intense pace. Add in pounding percussion and cowbell rhythms from drummer John Miceli, and you're left with an entirely entertaining track that remains frenetic from beginning to end.
One thing Danger Days has no shortage of is ballads. “SING” is a piano and percussion driven track that carries a surprising air of inspiration that's a welcome change from some of the darker parts of My Chemical Romance's careers. “Summertime” is probably the first traditional love song the band has ever put together. The lyrics are full of emotion while still retaining a bit of the irreverent charm Way has become known for, and Toro provides a soft guitar solo that adds a bit of nostalgia to the track. “S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W” carries an almost identical pacing, but showcases a different side of Way's vocal stylings. The sound crafted within the track is vintage in every way possible, and could very well be mistaken for a song from an older generation before the various effects make their presence known.
The album is rounded out remarkably with the last track. “Vampire Money” seems to exist outside of the Danger Days universe, and provides a fantastic ending for the up-and-down experience My Chemical Romance crafted throughout. Despite a cringe-inducing intro where Way introduces the members of the band, “Vampire Money” is a blaring piece of old-school rock and roll that will be a classic for years to come. The track hits you hard with dueling guitar riffs and doesn't let up until the very end. Way is on point as usual, and really shows why he is one of the best front men in the history of the genre. If his capable vocals don't grab the audience's attention from the get go, the strength with which he delivers each and every line definitely will.
While Danger Days is a bit of a hit-and-miss as you wade through the tracks, there's no doubt that this is a My Chemical Romance album. Every part of the band's repertoire has seen considerably improvement during the four years between this album and The Black Parade, which is no small feat with how well they carried themselves in the past. What Danger Days doesn't carry is the endearing edge that made their past albums so unforgettable, and definitely takes more than one listen to really appreciate. Unfortunately, I still found myself wanting a bit more substance from the band in place of the usual over-the-top concepts that have made them so famous. In spite of all this, My Chemical Romance has taken a huge step in a brighter direction, and I can't wait to see where this new journey takes them.
Well written review. I agreed with most of what you said about the album. I enjoy the new direction they've taken, but I think the goal is to listen to it as something new. Anyone who wants another three cheers or i brought you my bullets will probably come away feeling disappointed, but I think that this album will propel them farther into the mainstream than they already are.
I agree almost completely, very well written review.
if you could somehow sum-up the whole review into few words, then it would definitely be "hit or miss". some people might not like it, but fans wwho enjoyed esp. their two previous albums certainly will.
the part which I disagree with, is the one when you say it's overproduced. personally, I think all the synths and sound effects fit perfectly, esp. when you take into consideration the whole concept.
Fantastic album, but your review lacks something...oh I know! you forgot to mention "DESTROYA" and "Save Yourself, I'll Hold Them Back", which I think are incredible, and among the best songs in the album. Listening to DESTROYA you just wanna stop your feet and go wild, like animal wild. Save Yourself is plain cool. The lyrics are incredible, reminiscent of the old MCR stuff.
I think the album is amazing, the only flaw is that they seemed to scrap some really cool stuff, judging by the Mad Gear and the Missile Kid EP. The songs seem to drip sexuality from evey pore... ;)
Also, I've rediscovered Mr Way's voice with this album