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‘The Foundations of Decay’ Review: My Chemical Romance’s Epic Revival

Single cover for My Chemical Romance's "The Foundations of Decay."
Single cover for My Chemical Romance's "The Foundations of Decay." By Courtesy of My Chemical Romance / Reprise
By Clara V. Nguyen, Crimson Staff Writer

After taking a surprise hiatus in 2013 and commemorating their 12-year run with the farewell anthem “Fake Your Death” a year later, iconic pop-punk band My Chemical Romance came back to life just as abruptly. On May 12, days before embarking on an international reunion tour, they released “The Foundations of Decay,” their first single since “Fake Your Death.” At once a eulogy for the past and an oath for the future, the six-minute rock epic resurrects MCR’s legacy as emo legends.

The resolute piano intro bears an uncanny resemblance to that of the MCR single “Sleep,” as if to reassure listeners of the band’s emergence from a temporary, not eternal, rest. The song’s opening lines reveal that its protagonist, though, has yet to wake up. “See the man who stands upon the hill / He dreams of all the battles won,” frontman Gerard Way sings.

His breathy vocals drift along on a languid current of electric guitar, but no dream lasts forever. At the end of the pre-chorus, Way brings the narrative crashing back down to earth with a visceral scream over thunderous drums: “Let the flesh / Submit itself to gravity!”

Despite the futility of fighting against time, Way rejects total surrender in the chorus’ rallying cry. “Let our bodies lay while our hearts will stay,” he pleads to preserve the feelings whose raw intensity has always been the lifeblood of MCR’s music.

“He was there, the day the towers fell,” the second verse begins, referencing the band’s formation in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. “Starting Mychem was a direct result of everything we experienced and witnessed during those horrific events,” the band had written in a social media statement commemorating the tragedy’s 20th anniversary. “The world changed that day, and the next day we set about trying to change the world.”

MCR’s rise to global fame generated relentless public scrutiny that threatened to “press / And press ‘til you can’t take it anymore,” as Way expresses in the next pre-chorus. “When things start to succeed and go really well, that’s when a lot of people start to have an opinion and that’s when you run into struggle,” he said in a 2019 interview with the Guardian.

A forceful guitar solo brings the final chorus to a sudden stop, snarling in dissonant half steps. “You look stressed out!” Way unleashes the first of several shouts that punctuate the ensuing instrumental break.

In the bridge and outro, the band takes one last stand in defiance of stagnation by modifying the chorus’ melody to include higher notes than ever before. Way urges listeners to embrace change — “You must fix your heart / And you must build an altar where it rests” — even while conceding that “it comforts me much more / To lay in the foundations of decay.”

But comfort comes second to progress, and Way knows as much. He ends the song by jolting himself awake: “Get up, coward!” With MCR back on their feet at long last, “The Foundations of Decay” lays solid groundwork for a spectacular revival.

— Staff writer Clara V. Nguyen can be reached at

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