Josh Page
November 30, 2006
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My Chemical Romance
The Black Parade

Getting on MTV can be both a blessing and a curse for bands nowadays. Along with Fall Out Boy and the All-American Rejects, My Chemical Romance has swept the TRL fanbase of teenagers and made their mark as one of today's top alternative rock artists. However, a severe increase in record sales and a large order of Hot Topic merchandise later, and many hardcore MCR fans thought that the spark the band had during their first two albums would be killed. And though emo-purists and indie music snobs will denounce anything any band on the Billboard charts will create, My Chemical Romance's third album The Black Parade is actually an impressive and surprisingly rejuvenating piece of work that defines MCR as not just another pop-punk sellout.

In fact, the band seems to channel artists that many of their younger fans may have never listened to before; Pink Floyd and Queen seem to be two of the major influences here, especially the former whose “In the Flesh” is a clear source of imitation on the opening track “The End.”. This song pretty much guarantees from the beginning that the album will travel in the vein of Pink Floyd's masterpiece concept album The Wall.

First single “Welcome to The Black Parade” is a dynamic romp of piano-assisted vocals, drum rolls and pounding guitars that show definite growth in the musical capabilities of the band to craft music that stretches the band's limbs while still catering to the thrashing niche they have created for themselves in today's pop-punk.

What is especially intriguing about this album is the wide range of styles the band acquires and experiments with, making a variety of unique songs, sure to please any of MCR's fans. Songs like “The Sharpest Lives” and “House Of Wolves” pay respect to the band's earlier works, featuring especially dark (and classic MCR) lyrics [taken from “The Sharpest Lives”]: “Give me a shot to remember and you can take all the pain away from me ...So bright the sun is ashamed to rise and be in love with all of these vampires."

The album also features some of the band's poppiest, single-ready songs to date, yet never seem to trade in their good musical taste for a slight injection of mainstream heroin. “I Don't Love You” is a prime example of this, with a catchy chorus and light guitars that complement the intricate vocals of Gerard Way and impressive lyrics.

However, the most shocking and generally pleasing tracks of the album come when MCR take the music down a few notches and shows their quiet side. 2004's Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge featured the single “The Ghost Of You” that showed an experimenting MCR that dabbled in softer sounds. The Black Parade features two even further developed tracks that standout as two of the best on the album. The first of the two, “Cancer” shows Gerard Way experimenting with vocal-layering that pays homage to the Electric Light Orchestra.

The second low-key track on the album is “Disenchanted”, a heartbreaking, expertly written (and sung) song that is rumored to be about the volatile relationship between Gerard Way and The Used frontman Bert McCracken.

The rebel-rousing ode to adolescence, ”Teenagers” and the intensely bizarre “Mama” that guest features Liza Minnelli (?!) round out this collection of individually unique and generally impressive tracks.

Though under today's current rock standards The Black Parade stands out as a triumph compared to some of the offensively dreadful “music” being spewed over the airwaves, music fans just vaguely familiar with Pink Floyd and the nearly flawless The Wall may find the similarities in MCR's new set of songs to be too unsettling. If not, or if you're just eager to hear some of today's most well-composed and produced modern rock, pop in The Black Parade and get ready to hear the concept album of the year.

Release date: October 24, 2006
Label: Reprise
Rating: 8.6 / 10