10 Years Ago: My Chemical Romance Welcome Us to ‘The Black Parade’
“Now come one, come all, to this tragic affair,” began one of the most ambitious albums of the emo genre. The black eyeliner practically dripped off each syllable, culminating in an iridescent puddle that reflected shades of David Bowie, Queen, Smashing Pumpkins and the Smiths. The Black Parade, the third full-length album from hard rock Nosferatus My Chemical Romance, elevated a once-maligned scene to a respectable plateau upon its release in 2006.
Prior to getting the Broadway bug, the New Jersey outfit clawed their way through basements, sweltering club gigs and summers on the Warped Tour. Their first two LPs touched a nerve with niche audiences — boasting requisite dramatic titles I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love and Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. Being a band that was born from singer Gerard Way’s post-9/11 trauma, My Chemical Romance always possessed the potential for earth-shaking art. Listeners heard it especially on Three Cheers’ “Helena,” with its tear-stained gothic chorus devoted to Way’s departed grandmother. The front man veered from spooky throatiness to Freddie Mercury bombast in a single stanza, foreshadowing MCR’s passable 2005 cover of Queen and Bowie’s “Under Pressure” with the Used.
Around the same time, Green Day released the rock opera opus American Idiot, redefining what it meant to be punk. Producer Rob Cavallo collaborated with the trio to create a pristine work that relied on furious three-chord pop, political pith and a unifying storyline of waste and remorse. Inspired by the maestro’s Idiotic flair, MCR recruited Cavallo to lead The Black Parade.
The group were “encouraged by Rob Cavallo to do whatever we wanted,” Way told MTV in 2006. “It's a record that's so full of life, so risky, daring, fun. It makes you laugh, it makes you cry.”
Like any solid dramedy, The Black Parade put listeners through the ringer. From the deceivingly chipper “Dead!” to the heartfelt ballad “Cancer,” it was 53 minutes of pure rapture. The record had the typically awesome MCR elements – Ray Toro’s and Frank Iero’s incendiary guitars, Mikey Way’s and Bob Bryar’s militant rhythms, and Gerard Way’s over-the-top bravado – but it was its surprises that made it such an essential. For example, Madame Musical herself, Liza Minnelli, provided guest vocals on the cabaret delight “Mama.”
But it was the album’s unabashed nod to Queen, “Welcome to the Black Parade,” that defined the sound. With its tender piano intro and Way’s nostalgic delivery, we were whisked away to A Night at the Opera. Bryar’s marching drum rolls and Toro’s tear-jerking trills guided the epic number from dirge to punk-rock anthem.
“He said, ‘Son, when you grow up / Would you be / the savior of the broken / the beaten and the damned?’” Way sang, as though he were Peter Pan chasing his shadow. The artist had chased his fair share of ghosts, from battling drug and alcohol addiction, to struggling with depression. So the verse took on an even more messianic bent for emo fans, the cutters, the misfits and the self-proclaimed weirdoes. For 13 years, My Chemical Romance had been that redemptive entity in their lives, and tracks such as “Welcome to the Black Parade” and the declarative “Famous Last Words” put into words their passion and gratitude.
MCR are gone now, but The Black Parade recently got the reissue treatment, giving devotees more demos and morsels to sink their teeth into. Some of the former members have sturdy solo careers, but it’s this monster album that “the broken, the beaten and the damned” keep returning to.
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