This reunion is about far more than dusting off some emo hits
There are people closer to My Chemical Romance than myself – far closer, who go further back. I’m just a fan who somehow blagged the opportunity to talk to one of my favourite bands from time to time, interviewing them often for a variety of music outlets over the last 15-odd years. I’m not a friend, although we’re pretty friendly but you get the impression that the four men who make up My Chemical Romance aren’t unfriendly to anyone, really. A lot of bands who graduate to the big leagues from punk rock origins tend not to be, but them especially so.
Not friends. Not especially close. But I would get emails from them sometimes. Straight up; nothing in those emails made me think this would ever happen. That correspondence sometimes made the past seem complicated, painful even. I liked it best when they talked about the here and now – or what happens next. This might mean Mikey’s ongoing Electric Century project. Frank Iero’s ascent to being one of those most prolific and consistently exciting songwriters in America today.
The cauldron of creativity constantly brewing in Gerard Way’s mind. Ray Toro’s boundless enthusiasm for his friends’ projects (enthusiasm for others often threatening to overshadow his own post-MCR output; listen to ‘Isn’t That Something’, the opening song from Ray’s debut solo album, 2016’s ‘Remember The Laughter’, and try telling me that it isn’t amongst the best songs written by any My Chem member during their time out from superstardom).
But thinking about it now? It was always going to happen.
For one thing, the four members of My Chemical Romance never exited My Chemical Romance on bad terms. They spent the years that followed going to each other’s shows, guesting on each other’s records, and – as Frank revealed at the beginning of this year – having BBQs together and discussing the band business that continues long after your band has been lowered into the ground. The band that remain civil enough to cook sausages together, is the band that can still play together. Two of the band are actually brothers, but I think any member of the band would describe any other as a brother too.
Money isn’t a very My Chem thing to talk about, but I was having a conversation with a concert promoter at a festival this summer about the fees a band like My Chemical Romance could command on a festival circuit starved of ticket-selling headline acts. The numbers shared were figures any band would struggle to turn down, especially a band made up of men with expensive tastes; Mikey (WWE wrestling figures), Gerard (comic books), Frank (tattoos) and Ray (guitars). Ian Brown – a man who understands rock ‘n’ roll romance better than most, once said of The Stone Roses, “If I was in the gutter, and my kids lived on the kerb, I’d go and get a job in B&Q before I’d reform the Roses…” It wasn’t long before he was reunited with his former bandmates onstage at Heaton Park.
The timing is astute. A heartbreaking consequence of My Chemical Romance’s shutdown in 2013 was the outpouring of – it’s literally no exaggeration to say – grief, from those too young to have seen the band play. I remember seeing a tweet from a kid on the morning of their split – the kid couldn’t have been older than fourteen – saying, “I’m never going to see my favourite band…”
That’s not something you want 14-year-old kids to be saying. And My Chemical Romance’s time away has only enhanced their legacy. You still hear their songs in rock clubs. You still hear them on the radio. They’re still on the cover of music magazines; 10 years since ‘The Black Parade’, 15 years since ‘Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge’, 20 years since ‘Ray Toro sneezed and forgot to wash his hands’. The band’s 2014 greatest hits was called, ‘May Death Never Stop You’ and their passing really didn’t do anything to stop the band feeling fresh and vital to a whole new audience who now may well get the chance to see them live.
But here’s the crucial point – and I think most longterm My Chemical Romance fan will know this to be true – there is no way that My Chemical Romance will have agreed to return, for a show, for new music, a tour (and right now we just don’t know exactly what this reunion extends to), without having a vision. Remember, this is a band whose split in 2013 was more artistically choreographed than most bands album launches; pictures of Houdini shared on social media, epiphanies of little birds sparking long break-up letters, the curious audacity of releasing a song, posthumously, called ‘Fake Your Death’.
This is a band who treated every record they made thematically. Who – fitting for a band fronted by a comic book writer, this – always viewed the existence of their band as one with a narrative arc. There is no way they are going to turn up on December 20 and say, “here’s the hits, see you later…” There will be a new look, a new aesthetic (the band’s newly updated merch store might provide hints to what that might be), a new idea (I think I’m even more excited about learning what that is than the reality I might get the chance to hear ‘Helena’ again).
But what’s truly brilliant about the return of My Chemical Romance – as highlighted by their announcement on social media yesterday being the first time Twitter has felt like a fun and healthy place to be since that glorious day in mid-July when the Cats trailer was released – is that it really does feel like the pop culture event that can make the world feel… well, better? This, for all the ‘suicide-cult’ scaremongering of the Daily Mail in 2008, was always a band concerned with inclusion; alone, rejected, confused, lost, anxious, wrong, wronged, unclean, angry, ashamed, curious – to paraphrase the ‘I’m Not Okay (I Promise)’ video. All were welcome beneath the My Chemical Romance banner; all will continue to be.
Thinking about the impact a revived My Chemical Romance could have on a world divided, a society siloed, a rock scene that desperately needs an infusion of mystique and magic. I never felt like My Chemical Romance went away because they didn’t love the music or the people they played it with. I felt like they went away because they were crippled by the machine that powered it all. They return a band with the clout to do things they way they want to now. You watch them now mould My Chem into everything they want it to be.
I haven’t had an email from any member of My Chemical Romance since yesterday’s announcement. But if I was to send them one it would say, “thank you”. As the fanbase of this special band starts to dream, and begin to weigh up what bodily organs they can sell and still be healthy enough to fly to LA in December, rock ‘n’ roll feels brighter and more creative than has done in ages. And they haven’t even stepped onto a stage again yet…