When NME first met [a]My Chemical Romance[/a] they were a fresh-faced bunch of punk rock tykes playing a truly incendiary gig at Manchester’s cupboard-like Hop & Grape. After frontman Gerard Way dived into the crowd and got a female fan’s thumb stuck behind his eyeball, we thought we’d take them out on the town for a drink. Racing upstairs on the bus to whisk everyone off to an all-nighter at Jilly’s Rockworld, we were met by the strange sight of the band in pyjamas watching a Dungeons & Dragons DVD. We went out with the support band instead and when we dragged our sorry arses home at 8.30am the next day, we bumped into the band again who were just on their way to see an early screening of the new Harry Potter film.
While this behaviour was hardly tour-diary matter, it spoke volumes about their ambition and their will to mould their own destiny.
After their 2002 debut ‘I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love’ they struggled in a [a]Nirvana[/a]-esque way to keep their shining pop core under control… but not for that long. Their breakthrough album ‘Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge’ was a heady mix of pop punk and emo but it was already clear that they’d crossed a notional line and that any pretence of punk ‘authenticity’ after this would be shot down in flames. They sidestepped this entire debate by relaunching themselves as a bombastic and glossy epic rock outfit with stadium pretensions and anglophile tendencies, relishing in reference points that ranged from Britpop to [a]Queen[/a].
Their fourth album, ‘Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys’ is the third and final stage of reinventing themselves as a world dominating pop/rock group, and it is utterly fantastic. This is the album they were born to make. It gives us all the things that punk has never been able to provide: romance, sex, the adventure of the open road and sheer nihilism-banishing energy. The usual ill-defined ‘concept’ is here and yet again at its heart is illicit love across the barricades, with the band playing a bunch of outlaws. This time the star-crossed lovers/gang seem to be racing across some post-ecological-disaster America, a fact that is reinforced by radio DJ interludes in the style of QOTSA’s ‘Songs For The Deaf’.
If the unexpected influence on ‘The Black Parade’ was British rock, then here it is US radio of the ’70s and ’80s… it’s as if MCR have become characters in a Grand Theft Auto-style game, creating a feedback loop between a bleak fantasy future and a mainstream golden rock’n’pop past. So the disco synth arpeggios of Giorgio Moroder inform ‘Planetary (GO!)’, while next single ‘SING’ and anthemic ‘S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W’ even take on the leather’n’lace of [a]Whitesnake[/a] and the chromium gleam of ‘We Built This City’ loons Starship. ‘Save Yourself, I’ll Hold Them Back’ pours yet more scorn on the tabloid idea of MCR as a ‘suicide cult’ to some satisfying classic rock manoeuvres. More than any other band, MCR are coming to resemble [a]Muse[/a], in their size and ambition at least.
Perhaps it’s not too fanciful to think that sooner rather than later we may see them at Wembley, given that their ambition has brought them this far and to this glittering achievement already. Never mind that punk bollocks, here are MCR the pop group. And they’re amazing.