I first noticed My Chemical Romance when some of the songs from their last album belatedly got through to me. So I was actually paying attention when the NME told me that they were releasing a sort of, well, Concept Album, which since Green Day got away with it, is no longer a completely naff, err, concept.
The first most people heard about it was when a scheduled MCR concert didn’t go quite the way people expected. It was announced that MCR were unable to play, and that they had sent along their friends The Black Parade to play instead. And on they came. Apparently it took people a little while to realise that the band on stage actually was MCR, possibly because singer and songwriter Gerard Way had his previously long black hair cut short and bleached.
The next thing was the single Welcome to the Black Parade, a multi-part epic which starts softly, with marching band style drumming slowly building in the background, before the band really get started. The video is a nicely bizarre piece, in which MCR are seen wearing what someone described as “Goth Sergeant Pepper” outfits, which is pretty accurate.
The album tells the story of a young man dying prematurely. The idea is that when death comes, it appears in the form of the dying person’s strongest memory. The dying man has done little with his life, and the strongest impression ever made on him was when his father took him to see a marching band, which is where the Black Parade idea comes from.
I need to listen to the album quite a lot more to really work out what’s going on, but so far I like it. Parts of it are vaguely reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s The Wall – indeed, opening track The End does sound like it wandered in from that general direction. Other parts are more distinctively MCR. On the other hand, Mama, which features guest vocals from Liza Minelli (!), sounds more like the warped offspring of Kurt Weill’s Alabama Song.
There’s a lot of darkness in the lyrics, but some positive notes towards the end:
I am not afraid to keep on living
I am not afraid to walk this world alone
Honey, if you stay, I’ll be forgiving
Nothing you can say could stop me going home
There’s been a load of nonsense written in the popular press and elsewhere about “Emo” bands, and there does seem to be a lot of hostility even from fans of other “alternative” bands towards MCR and other such bands. All of which makes very little sense to me – if liking particular bands, or dressing a particular way gives people something to relate to, or some sense of belonging, then in general I’m all for it. And of course, I’ve always though that if the Daily Mail hates you, you’re probably doing something right. And there’s plenty that’s right with these words from Welcome to the Black Parade:
When I was a young boy
My father took me into the city
To see a marching band
He said son when you grow up
Would you be the savior of the broken
The beaten and the damned?
He said will you defeat them
Your demons and all the non-believers
The plans that they have made?
Because one day I’ll leave you
A phantom to lead you in the summer
To join the black parade
I’m not sure if MCR will be anyone’s actual saviour, but on their current form, they’ll make a lot of music fans, including me, moderately happy. Now where can I get one of those outfits?