My Chemical Romance: The Generation

My Chemical Romance, the brainchild of vocalist Gerard Way, flared up in the aftermath of September 11th. Their first album, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, is remnant of early punk styles such as the Misfits and Black Flag and is composed of unapologetic macabre images and grossly morbid themes. The style of Bullets, as it’s commonly referred, set the stage for MCR and how iconic they were to become both in the realm of mainstream rock and in its dramatically darker underground step-brothers.

My Chemical Romance returned in 2004 with Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge. After such success with Bullets, the band moved to Reprise Records and cleaned up their rookie style. Three Cheers was a cinematic concept album, boasting the bloodstained lovers on the cover artwork into a dark reality with lyrics like, “The story of a man. A woman. And the corpses of a thousand evil men.” With cleaner vocals and more precise guitar tracking, the album soars, while still managing to hang onto the musically messy and claustrophobic feel of I Brought You My Bullets. While the album technically exists within the same influences and genre as its peers, bands like Atreyu and A.F.I didn’t spew the same rampant immediacy and apathetic refusal to step down that catapulted MCR to the top.

Because of the radio popularity of “I’m Not Okay (I Promise),” and “Helena”, Three Cheers sold over 1.4 million copies. This was undeniably the band’s biggest success since their conception, but they weren’t done yet. Two years later, My Chem released their magnum opus in the form of a seventeen song deluxe album titled The Black Parade. By this time, My Chemical Romance existed in the hypnotic, dark, emoe-sque genre that was never to be named. They created a space in the genre that was all their own. They reached commercial success with Three Cheers, but were about to become a household name in all the ones with misunderstood and angry pre-teens and teenagers.

The Black Parade is an open wound, untamed, heartfelt, and features the largest concept of any album following 2006. This album showcases the innate theatricality of My Chemical Romance, featuring grand marching band themes and a continued glorification of death, but while they hold onto the dark tones and desperate cries, MCR moves into a whole new era for their music. With improved musicality and a new, sober look on life, the band’s lyrics manage to infuse hope in despair.

The Black Parade, the story of a cancer patient’s death and the regrets he holds afterwards, is eerily reminiscent of the Way brothers’ own struggles with sobriety, drugs, and fame. With songs such as “Teenagers”, “Welcome To The Black Parade”, “Disenchanted”, and “Famous Last Words”, MCR brings a clear purpose to their concept. Calling on the fans behind the movement and aiming to enlighten, My Chemical Romance is out to make a statement, spouting, “Because the drugs never work / They're gonna give you a smirk / 'Cause they got methods of keeping you clean / They're gonna rip up your heads, / Your aspirations to shreds /Another cog in the murder machine”.

The band’s third full album became the most iconic rock album of the mid-2000s and to this day, remains one of the most widely known and loved in the scene. With Black Parade, MCR managed to raise an “army” of fans coined the “MCRmy” and instill in them a sense of wanting to stand up and rebel against the mainstream version of what it means to be “okay”. With their dark themes, harsh lyrics, gorgeous goth imagery, and brutal honesty, My Chemical Romance altered what it means to make music and what the original purpose behind it should be.

With the last song on their album, “Famous Last Words”, MCR sang, “So many / Bright lights, they cast a shadow / But can I speak? Well is it hard understanding / I'm incomplete / A life that's so demanding / I get so weak / A love that's so demanding / I can't speak”. This poignant acceptance of the difficulties of life led to the following lyrics, which inspired an entire, fractured generation to survive, despite everything they felt was wrong with them: “I am not afraid to keep on living / I am not afraid to walk this world alone / Honey if you stay, I'll be forgiven / Nothing you can say can stop me going home.”

It took four years before My Chemical Romance released another album. In interviews, Gerard Way explained that it felt as though he was going against a “musical command” that he put on himself, having claimed that The Black Parade felt like the band’s natural ending. However, because of the movement they incited and the sheer number of people behind them, after a hiatus, they came back with an album, which was, for all intensive purposes, a farewell.

Danger Days; The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, was remarkably different from any of their past albums. Gone was the bitterness and anger of their prior anthems and in its place was a fantastical version of a pop punk dystopia. Danger Days was yet again another concept album, this time telling the story of a group of guys out to survive in post-apocalyptic desert-world where the organization BL/IND was against everything The Killjoys stood for.

While MCR’s previous albums created anthems where the band led people beyond ignorance and mainstream stereotypes, Danger Days took the liberty of explaining that the fans, the followers, and the people of the Black Parade would now have to survive on their own. This theme was evident in Black Parade as well, but is shown most strongly through the drastic changes in musical style and tone: “I am not the singer that you wanted / But a dancer / I refuse to answer / Talk about the past, sir / Wrote it for the ones who want to get away”.

When My Chemical Romance started in 2001, the band never claimed to have anything to say, but while confronting their own lives, their authenticity snared millions and millions of young people who were also trying to make it through. In the end, My Chemical Romance’s final album played like an epilogue to their eleven-year run, reminding the fans that MCR was never meant to be permanent, but instead a movement that aimed to “[save] the broken” (Welcome To The Black Parade).

In one of their final songs, Gerard Way writes and sings, “Well now this could be the last of all the rides we take / So hold on tight and don't look back / We don't care about the message or the rules they make / We'll find you when the sun goes black”, and seems to explain the ideals behind the band’s conception. Following those lines, the song continues to not only end the album, but also end the era of My Chemical Romance. Leaving their legacy in its place. “When we were young we used to say / That you only hear the music when your heart begins to break / Now we are the kids from yesterday”.

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