CD Review: My Chemical Romance

"The Black Parade"

My Chemical Romance

“The Black Parade”


2.5 Stars

My Chemical Romance is perhaps the prototypical emo band—death figures prominently in most of their songs, and they use exclamation points with alarming frequency. So it is neither a surprise nor a disappointment that their latest release, “The Black Parade” features songs entitled “Cancer,” “Disenchanted,” and, yes, “Dead!”

And while there’s nothing particularly wrong with having a bleak point of view, the problem with My Chemical Romance is that they just don’t pull it off that well. They are both over the top to a laughable degree and, not coincidentally, possessed of a very adolescent point of view. Most of their lyrics read like a slightly improved version of the poetry of a fifteen-year-old goth, and the song “Teenagers” in particular sounds like the screed of someone who never quite got over being picked on in high school.

Musically, My Chemical Romance is competent. Most of the songs are instrumentation-heavy mid-to-up-tempo pop-punk, with metal guitar flourishes creeping in around the edges. They’re perfectly serviceable for the genre, and many have a flair for catchiness that makes it difficult to avoid bopping along.

The band breaks out of this mold for a few ballads and genre experiments. The less said about “The End,” which strikes an acoustic, almost alt-country posture in its first minute, the better. “Mama” flirts with cabaret punk, with a level of success that depends completely on how much you like 1) that sub-genre and 2) Liza Minelli, who guest stars. “I Don’t Love You” is a guitar-driven lament that reaches almost Nickelbackian proportions of blandness.

They fare slightly better on the quieter songs “Cancer” and “Disenchanted,” which, while lyrically as bombastic as any of the other tracks, manage a few moments of musical understatement, with simple piano or guitar lines before they jet off into the emosphere. While the writing is stronger here, lead singer Gerard Way’s voice is least suited to these songs, with a nasal quality that can’t do sadness well, quietly.

Most of the album is fine, if a little boring, taken song by song. The problem with the album as a whole is that every song aspires to be an anthem. Nearly every track ends with twice the volume, three times the vocals, and five times the instruments it started out with. Piling on the drama time after time, however, just becomes fatiguing and a little silly, especially when it’s achieved each time simply by adding more and more of everything.

The only track whose big finish is interesting is the title track, “Welcome to the Black Parade,” which takes its cue more from “Bohemian Rhapsody” than from the latter-day Green Day, which much of the rest of the album resembles. The song starts slowly with piano and military drum and ends up with a huge rock chorus, passing though the purest punk the album has to offer. The lyrics are as dark as anything else in the album, but here the music finally lets the listener have some fun.

The trouble with My Chemical Romance is that they can’t embrace the fact that they’re silly. They go so over the top so often that it’s difficult to take them seriously, but they’re so deadly serious about it that it’s hard to just enjoy the drama of it all. The result is an album that’s not quite good enough for its aspirations and not quite entertaining enough to forget about them and just go along for the ride.

­—Reviewer Elisabeth J. Bloomberg can be reached at