"The men who make up My Chemical Romance aren’t the men who made up that band when they went their separate ways just over half a decade ago"
It’s that time of year again. The time of year where people on Twitter briefly stop shouting at each other, put their differences to one side and collectively salivate at the idea of a My Chemical Romance reunion. Think the British/German truce of 1914 on the Western Front, only way more emo.
This time round, the furore has arisen due to the news that Mr. Sansa Stark, Joe Jonas, allegedly heard My Chemical Romance practicing in the rehearsal room next to his. In all honesty, this seems unlikely. Guitarist Frank Iero is currently on tour promoting his excellent new solo record, Barriers. Gerard Way is – unsurprisingly – engrossed in the mindset of comic books with the final chapter of Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion due in shops any day now. Bassist Mikey Way just had a baby (well, his wife Kristin did, but congratulations to all concerned). And Ray Toro? Well, we’ve got no idea what Ray Toro is up to. Probably at the hairdressers. It’s a full-time job maintaining a hairdo like that, y’know…
The world is desperate for My Chemical Romance to reform. This is understandable. Not only were My Chemical Romance a very good band – 15 years old this week, the songs from breakthrough second album ‘Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge’ still sound like the most exciting thing that can be done with electric guitars – but they were also an important one. They defined childhoods. Helped people become more comfortable with who they were – or wanted to be.
A hirsute Mancunian warned about the dangers of putting your life “in the hands of a rock ‘n’ roll band” decades ago, but doing that with My Chemical Romance always seemed like a fairly safe bet. Over four albums (five if you count aborted – and yet really quite amazing – fourth album ‘Conventional Weapons’, released as a compendium of singles in 2013) they were consistently inventive, always thrilling. And you, the fans, were their lifeblood. When they went away in the March of 2013 it felt a bit like a piece of you went away too, right?
Discarding sentimentality for a breath or two, like Father Christmas, but Father Christmas who mistreats his reindeer and pisses down your chimney, I’m here to tell you why My Chemical Romance reforming would be a pretty shitty idea. Firstly, you’re not the person you were when the band went away six years ago. You’re quite a bit older now. You’re supposed to be into dubstep or something by now, surely? A bit like rusks (which are excellent snacks at any age, despite being principally consumed by babies), you might think you need them back in your life. You don’t. Your teeth are fully formed now. You can eat more complex food. Life is about moving forward, not looking back. By the time you finish reading this article you will be five to 10 minutes closer to your death than you were when you started it. During this time Frank Iero has written another five solo albums. There’s so much to see and do in life, you can’t be listening to ‘The Ghost Of You’ forever, wishing things were how they were.
Not only that, but the men who make up My Chemical Romance aren’t the men who made up that band when they went their separate ways just over half a decade ago. We’ve had a little lol at Frank Iero’s hyper productivity in the paragraphs proceeding this one, sure, but the man has released three solo records in the time he’s been out there on his own. Each of them are some of the most exciting punk rock to be made within the modern age.
Of the three, my favourite is 2014’s ‘Stomachaches’ – imagine Graham Coxon if he’d been in charge of Blur and sang like he gargled wasps – but each one has proved beyond doubt that the man who told you to “trust” him in MCR’s ‘I’m Not Okay (I Promise)’ video is a songwriter of the highest pedigree. Do you really want him to give that up in favour of seeing him pretending to care as much about playing ‘Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)’ on a giant stage, rather than having the time of his life, screaming in your face down at your local punk club?
We’ll get to the frontman’s post-MCR achievements in due course, but it is fair to say that both Mikey Way and Ray Toro haven’t been anywhere near as active as Gerard and Frank in the time since their last band’s break. And yet both have achieved milestones, both personal and professional, that no-one would surely trade for a My Chemical Romance reunion. Mikey got off drugs, which renders all other accomplishments puny by comparison. He also – last year, in fact – voiced the Transformer-cum-stegosaurus Snarl (after Grimlock, the best of the Dinobots) in the new Transformers: Powers Of The Primes animated series. He played bass for a bit with Waterparks, the most inventive emo band there’s been… well, since My Chem, come to think of it.
Most notably, he fronted the quite brilliant electro pop band Electric Century. Their debut album, ‘For The Night To Control’, the answer to the question, ‘What would My Chemical Romance sound like if they only covered Pet Shop Boys songs?”, was released in July of 2017. A follow–up is required.
Ray Toro’s solo album, ‘Remember The Laughter’, was released in 2016 to almost no fuss whatsoever. Don’t confuse this with the record lacking quality. In places it sounded much like Rick Springfield fronting Queen – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it – and with opening song ‘Isn’t That Something’ Ray knocked out a tune that’s the equal of anything his former band mates have put their names to.
For the largest part, he seemed most comfortable backing Gerard Way up on a variety of musical outings. His pairing with Gerard on the 2017 Record Store Day release ‘Into The Cave We Wander/Pogi’s Cavern’ (a musical accompaniment to the comic book series Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye, released on Way’s late, often great ‘experimental’ DC Comics imprint Young Animal) showed a tentative exploration in sound you’d never expect from the man who played the none-more-gonzo guitar solo on ‘Welcome To The Black Parade’ back in 2007. Then there are the chops Ray laid down with Gerard on a collection of covers – Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘A Hazy Shade Of Winter’ (though their version is a cover of The Bangles version, really), the Turtles’ ‘Happy Together’ – for The Umbrella Academy soundtrack.
You know about The Umbrella Academy – good show, huh? Can’t wait for season two. You know about Young Animal. In fact, it’s Gerard Way who has thrived most notably since stepping away from My Chemical Romance, despite it being comics, not music, that have appeared to be his principal concern.
His debut solo album, 2014’s ‘Hesitant Alien’, remains a criminally underrated collection of songs. Released late last year, his ‘Baby You’re A Haunted House’ single suggests that the follow up will be similarly high on hooks, even higher on a fan-ish appreciation of lost early-90’s indie rock. The man gushes creativity like a broken tap. Upon the dissolution of My Chem, Gerard Way once told this writer that the band had left him feeling so stressed, so fried, so disillusioned, he once found himself sat at the wheel of his car, at midnight, crying his eyes out, consumed with the darkest thoughts that can engulf a person’s mind. Why would anyone wish him a return to the life that left him feeling like that?
If you value art, creativity, progress and the mental health of the people who make it, you will agree with me that the reunion of My Chemical Romance would be a very bad idea.
Obviously, were it to happen, I’d buy a ticket in seconds flat, mind…