Jeff's birthday present was a copy of My Chemical Romance's newly released album, The Black Parade. We both like it a lot. I have been aware of MCR for a few years, but neither Jeff nor I were particularly impressed by them (although I must confess to having been fascinated by the music video for "Helena"). I dismissed them as moderately talented musicians who were trying too hard to be goth-punk. Before holiday, however, we happened to catch a show on Fuse, chronicling the making of the video for "Welcome to the Black Parade", and were both of us struck by the sound and ideas of MCR's latest work. Jeff decided he wanted to check out the album, which is a "concept" album, in which the artists seek to have a unified theme that pulls all of the songs together, and possibly even tells a story. [See Green Day, American Idiot.] In this case, My Chemical Romance adopts the persona of a fictional band, The Black Parade, and records all the music of the album as The Black Parade (which basically is what Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band would have been like if they'd done heroin instead of LSD). Jeff likes the idea of concept albums; I find them intriguing, but somehow against the grain of how I think popular music should be done: On a strong song-by-song basis, with maybe a book to tie songs together if necessary; if it was good enough for Irving Berlin, it's good enough for me! Jeff sees the value of single shots in pop music, but pointed out that most of my preferred singers recorded in the days of 45 records, each of which was released with a single on each side; collections and extended-play albums were comparatively rare. Now, however, people have the option of just purchasing a single from iTunes or buying an entire album, and if artists want people to shell out for that whole album, they have to make it worth the consumers' while. Hence, the emphasis on coherence within an entire album. Get it? Got it. Good.
View "Welcome to the Black Parade" below.
I am not the sort to gush about totally hot rock stars or anything, but I also observed (aloud, to Jeff, in case you were wondering) that My Chemical Romance is one of the few punk bands out there that has a majority of good-looking guys, and is the only one I can call to mind at the moment. Generally, a punk band is lucky to have one hottie, if any (which is why they get all tattoed and pierced: to distract you from how actually unattractive they are). See, for example, Green Day (again), Fallout Boy, All American Rejects, Blink-182, etc. etc. ad nauseum. By contrast, none of the guys in MCR happens to be dog-ugly, and the ones that aren't immediately good-looking really mostly need a better haircut (*ahem* guitarist Ray Toro).
See? Don't they look all ironically detached and counter-cultural? It's adorable, really.
I thought lead singer Gerard Way was scary in the past, but he ditched the emo hair and went blonde, and now he looks much better (by which I mean not only pretty, but non-consumptive as well).
Furthermore, My Chemical Romance had the good sense to utilize the talents of a legendary entertainer in The Black Parade. She sings a few lines as the title character in the song "Mama". Can you guess who it might be? [Hint: It's not Madonna.]
Keep up the good work, My Chemical Romance! I suspect that you still have a few years of solid music left in you (unless you pull a Blink-182 and disband before really reaching maturity as a band--yes, I'm still scarred, thank you). And remember that you're free to continue experimenting with your style and performance, as after a certain point, artistic pretentions pass out of the realm of pretentiousness and enter the dimension of "so pretentious, it's adorable!". [See Picasso, Pablo, or Eliot, T.S.] And also, people will forgive you for a lot of things, if you're really hot. A few more of you might want to look into that hair-changing thing, okay? Okay.