My Chemical Romance – [2CD]

My Chemical Romance – [2CD]

Sunday, 06 November 2016

Artist: My Chemical Romance
Album: The Black Parade + Living With Ghosts (10th Anniversary 2CD)
Label: Reprise/Warner

Upon first sight of the tenth anniversary edition of The Black Parade by My Chemical Romance, even the greatest and most fanatical of the band’s fans will find themselves asking, “What the fuck is this?” They’ll be asking not because anything is wrong exactly, just that they won’t be able to immediately recognize what they’re looking at; unlike the original release of The Black Parade – which featured a character marching manically on the cover and a font looking as though the letters had been slashed in with a knife to present the band’s name – this new 2CD version features little more than a ghostly ‘X’ on the cover along with a Parental Advisory notice. It doesn’t give those who might be scanning the ‘New Release’ racks at their local record store an impression of what it could be at all – in fact it looks perfectly anonymous.

Is that the point? Is the new cover just a clever device intended to pique the curiosity of the innocent and unfamiliar?

The short answer to the ‘Who thought this was a good idea?’ question is that only the band and its record label know for sure but, regardless, those who begin the listening experience of this reissue are quickly rewarded. Just as was the case in 2006 when the album came out originally, the reissue of The Black Parade plays like the perfect median point between a punk rock concept album and a concept album by the biggest, sleaziest, Harley-riding rock band in the world; there are obvious builds of epic grandeur reminiscent of ban like Queen and mid-period Guns N’ Roses, but also moments of the scruffy, crunchy and speedy squeal which is the definition of punk rock. The combination was a stroke of genius in 2006 and remains unparallelled by any band (including My Chemical Romance – the band never quite reached this peak again) in the years since.

Sounds like a tall order to fill, right? Listen along as you read this review and be made a believer.

As The Black Parade opens, it does so about as little like a punk rock concept album – be it by Mike Watt or Green Day – as it’s possible to get. Here, if anything, My Chemical Romance sets their stage in much the same way Pink Floyd did for The Wall as the band stomps and thunders along epically and singer Gerard Way sets up with the words, “Now come one come all to this tragic affair/ Wipe off that makeup – what’s in is despair/ So throw on the black dress/ Mix in with the lot/ You might wake up and notice/ you’re someone you’re not.”

It could so easily go downhill from that moment but, beautifully, it doesn’t. My Chemical Romance’s balancing act is flawless as they lift a couple of motifs from “Thin Ice” and “Another Brick In The Wall” and weld them neatly into a procession of images which are more “classic rock” – shots of isolation, loneliness, death and loss – which are very poignant even if the concept behind them is a bit soft. Even with that said though, all of the superficial shortcomings that listeners may find with The Black Parade quickly fall away for the reason that’s always the most important one on a rock record: the songs are positively exceptional. Tracks like “This Is How I Disappear,” “The End,” “Dead!,” “Mama,” “Teenagers” (which remains a great anthem for youthful disaffection) and of course the megalithic single “Welcome To The Black Parade” all (literally all) smack of come-out-of-nowhere brilliance as they combine punk aesthetics and monster bombast with the help of elements like a marching band, piano and other instrumentation with an army of vocal takes and overdubs. The result is an absolutely enormous and sweeping effort; to this day – ten years later – The Back Parade remains an unparallelled example of the possibilities for punk in a dramatic setting.

The second disk in the reissue set of The Black Parade (entitled Living With Ghosts) is interesting but also expendable as it collects eleven previously unreleased demos and alternate takes of Black Parade songs. While it’s true that they’re really not necessary, there’s no question that fans will certainly find them of interest; the live demo of “Kill All Your Friends” is basically a cover of The Pixies’ “Gigantic” with augmented lyrics, while the demo version of “Mama” is more ‘rock’ than the finished version’s vaudeville while the demo version of “Disenchanted”almost sounds like a rattled-out AC/DC half-cover. On one hand, yes, there’s no question that these tracks are rough works-in-progress and wouldn’t have fit into The Black Parade, but that doesn’t mean they’re valueless. In fact, there are definitely flecks of goodness to be found in the demo of “Disenchanted” amd “Mama,” and the two different versions of “House Of Wolves” illustrate how much work both the band and producer Rob Cavallo put into realizing the album. Massage was done in order to get the music in the shape that would fit the vision of the record, but these demos really give listeners an idea of where they started versus where they ended.

Now, taking the second disc of extras as well as the remastered effort put into The Black Parade as a complete set into account (the remastering job is slight at most, incidentally), there’s no question that this reissue is an easy sell but, at the same time, it really needs to be said that it should have been an easy sell from the beginning anyway. The thing about The Black Parade is that it was already a classic album and didn’t need another variant to get people interested in it again; it is that good. However, whether it’s one of the originals or one of the reissue copies, people should seek this album out; it’s something they should absolutely hear. [BILL ADAMS]


The Black Parade/Living With Ghosts (10th Anniversary 2CD) is out now. Buy it here on Amazon.

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