"Teenagers scare the living shit out of me!"
As Gerard Way screams this line in one of the worst (but simultaneously catchiest) songs on the new My Chemical Romance album, I can't help but agree, because those teenagers are going to make this one of the biggest hits of the year, in all its vapid entertainment and lifted sing-along music. However, I've got to say, this is My Chemical Romance's finest effort yet, because it is an exact representation of what this band is: a theatrical, over-the-top joke.
The Black Parade is like a really bad movie, where it's so bad it's actually good. Listening to this, you can see what all the make-up and hair obsessions are all about. It's like going to a play and closing your eyes. I'm convinced in a past life, Gerard Way was an overweight Italian woman singing in an opera house. Every song has theatrical moments, from the end of "Dead!" to the ballad of the first single, "Welcome to the Black Parade."
I'd compare this album to the new Dashboard Confessional record, in the sense it will be a huge hit while failing to offer any sort of intellectual value. Supposedly it's about cancer, but the music is is far too superfluous to be taken seriously, which is the biggest downfall. This record also sounds like the band listened to American Idiot and took Rob Cavallo aside and said, "Hey, we want to do that. But without any honesty or sentiment involved. And outfits -- we need outfits." And what we have is The Black Parade. Cavallo did at least a good job at tapping into the band's earlier sounds and making them even more attractive to the pop audience ("The Sharpest Lives"). So long as the band isn't actually taking themselves as seriously as the promotions suggest, this is quite a fine pop record.
However, it is just that. A pop album. Any band trying to get their music to be taken seriously would not do it with such a verbose overtone of Broadway in the background. This is meant to be entertainment -- sugar-coated candy. Nothing more. And if it is trying to be something more, well, that's a bad thing. I couldn't help but chuckle the entire way through the 51-minute effort, double-taking many times after thinking, "Hey, I've heard this before," for every time the band took a riff from a play or movie (like the entirety of the aforementioned, "Teenagers"). I almost felt bad for laughing half the time, remembering this is about cancer or something, but I highly doubt the band actually believes in all that promotion. And if the cancer thing was their idea, they did a hell of a job at turning an incredibly serious disease into a complete joke; they use the subject matter for the token slow, piano-based song that is just, well, pretty bad all around. Actually, it's pretty offensive to think of this album as being serious in nature.
Is this a good album? Not really. I doubt I'll ever listen to this one again. Gerard Way has a voice as annoying as Billy Corgan, but can't write anything beyond trite and contrived repetition. For fans of the Hot Topic-friendly imagery and color schemes, well, this will surely be a big success. However, while American Idiot remained a poignant statement about a serious problem in the world for -- so far -- several years after being released, The Black Parade ends up being nothing but an empty void of theatrics riding on the coat-tails of a legitimate success. It will sell millions of copies that will end up being millions of memories of people looking back, years from now, saying with a smile and a chuckle, "Wow, look at the horrible shit I used to listen to."