Album Reviews

My Chemical Romance – The Black Parade

(Reprise) UK release date: 23 October 2006

My Chemical Romance - The Black Parade If you’re someone for whom rock ‘n’ roll courses through your blood, then every so often – probably about once every five years or so – a band or record or festival moment will come along and reaffirm the meaning of life. When you look back, you’ll be able to number them on the fingers of one hand: Dog Man Star by Suede. The first time you heard Nirvana‘s Smells Like Teen Spirit. The moment when The Streets took you back to those cold Brixton mornings outside Maccy D’s and the Dog Star. The sun setting on Love at Glastonbury. Crowd-surfing to Dirty Pretty Things at the Astoria even though you were twice the age of anyone else in the crowd.

And then when that list should be full, you’ll find room in it for The Black Parade. This is such a great, great record for so many reasons. Many of them revolve around the fact that I am much, much too old for it. I was a goth the first time round for Bauhaus and The Sisters Of Mercy and The Mission and, back then, when I fell in love with boys in tight black jeans and eyeliner and too much hair dye and an obsession with death, I knew that a part of my soul would always belong to them.

But never did I expect that at the age of 36 any popular music would still have the power to swell my heart and raise the hairs on the back of my neck quite as much as this. And certainly not a concept album that owes so much to Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, Queen and The Rocky Horror Show.

Like The Libertines in black and white or a monochrome Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Gerard Way and his cohorts are here to save rock ‘n’ roll from manufactured reality TV stars and bland R&B, whether in the opening stomp of The End, the manic guitar intro of Dead! or the crashing stadium anthem of The Sharpest Lives. Piano ballads? They’ve got those licked too – and with names like Cancer and Disenchanted, they’re reminding us that music that means this much should never take itself too seriously.

And there’s *that* intro. Minimal, fragile, delicate, heart-rending as it grows, gently swells and then bursts into more life than you’ll ever live, beating to the drum of your heart. If this album contained nothing but its title track it would still be the greatest thing you’d heard this year. Close your eyes and let it take you back to the best moments of your life before you’re too old to remember how great they felt.

I Don’t Love You drips with the kind of romance The Smiths longed for (but no-one ever loved them enough). House Of Wolves is pure rock ‘n’ roll – a true descendent of all the best bits of grunge, but with better clothes. Teenagers is just fun, through and through.

This is an album which references music hall theatricality, marching band propaganda, religious pomp, punk energy and, perhaps more surprising than anything, an overarching sense of fun. This is a band who not only have a sense of humour but who revel in it. We’ve seen it before on tracks such as You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us In Prison and I’m Not Okay (I Promise) but this time round My Chemical Romance are not going to let up. They’re going to grab you round the neck and squeeze so much that it hurts not only when you laugh but even when you breathe.

However much they hate the tag, this is as emotional as music gets, full of those perfect moments when everything – fashion, street culture, youth movement, Daily Mail smear campaigns and unbearably fantastic songs – come together in blissful harmony and the record-buying public unites to put it where it belongs: at the top of the charts.

Gerard, you’ll never top this. You probably know that yourself. But other bands will. It may take one year, it may take 10, but they will come and they will mean as much to us as this did. And, when we hear them, we’ll close our eyes and remember all the others that have meant that much to us before. Until then, like you, we’ll carry on.

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