Gerard Way - Hesitant Alien (Cover Artwork)

Gerard Way

Hesitant Alien (2014)

Reprise Records

Prior to the disbandment of My Chemical Romance, two songs (“Zero Zero” and “Millions”) surfaced on the internet by vocalist Gerard Way. They were demo versions of songs that would eventually find their way on his debut solo release Hesitant Alien almost two years later. Now, with the dirt on My Chemical Romance’s graves still fresh and the mourning MCRmy still wearing black (more black?) the collection of pop-rock anthems on Way’s debut solo effort make the arena-rock solos and long-winded death narratives of The Black Parade seem farther away than ever.

The album begins with the distorted guitar driven “Bureau,” Way’s megaphone-echoing vocals “Get up/Get in/The operator for the boogeyman” bleed through the speakers and set the supernatural tone that Way is so adept at cultivating. The lead single, “Action Cat,” is a catchy, '80s pop-rock that has Way begging for something authentic after years of heavily plotted concept albums, “We want action and decision/That we can’t fake.” The song also seems to draw from Way’s own life as an Eisner Award (like the Oscar for comic books) winning comic book writer and the process of coming up with stories in his head as his wife sleeps “We have battles in the dark/When she falls asleep.” The second single “No Shows” leaves you in power-pop purgatory waiting for Ric Ocasek to burst in. While you’re waiting perhaps you can watch "The Karate Kid" or "Goonies" to kill time. The song that comes the closest to the sound of his former band is “Millions,” and even has brother and former My Chemical Romance bass player Mikey Way crooning gang-vox in the background, “It was really me/It was really you!” One of the more interesting tracks on the record is Joy Division drums-driven “Zero Zero,” which has more of the megaphone vocals we find layered throughout the record.

In making the album, Way himself said he was basically making a Brit-pop record -- and that’s what he did. The album sounds like it was recorded in the London Underground. For Way, it seems like the pressure is off in a post-My Chem world, and he is reveling in it. However, this is also the album’s downfall. The album doesn’t have the tight conceptual feel that we have become so used to from Way’s work. Instead, the thing that holds this album together is the styles of music Way himself loves. From The Cars to Bowie, and clearly his love of Morrissey, Way has created a grand, sonic gesture to the music of his youth. It feels less like and album and more like a group of songs hanging out under the guise of a record, and if you don’t like the bands that Way is paying homage to, you won’t like his offering. He has made 11 songs that would make any Zeppelin fan cringe, but in the end, isn’t that what '80s pop was all about?