My Chemical Romance - Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge

Last week, we reviewed My Chemical Romance's debut record, the punk precursor to their emo takeover I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, which you can read here. The album follows the story of two "demolition lovers," who run from the authorities who are trying to capture them. In the end, he is killed and sent to hell while his lover continues to live.

Or so you thought. The narrative doesn't intentionally continue throughout the band's followup, but it certainly carries on the theme. Besides the story, Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge is a largely stronger album than its predecessor, freshening up the band's sound and moving them towards the sound they became known for.

The album generally drops the complex song structures and generally raw, abrasive nature of I Brought You My Bullets. Instead, MCR is met with an album in which Gerard Way described as "pseudo-conceptual horror story." It's largely a tale of personal disaster: the hardships of life, the struggle of love, and even the grief of losing a loved one. All of this is done with an innovative album caught in the crossfire between punk rock and the rising pop punk and emo movement.

The remnants of I Brought You My Bullets can still be found throughout the album. The most similar-sounding song is 'Its Not's A Fashion Statement, It's A Fucking Deathwish', which not-so-coincidentally was the first song written after the release of the former record. The song discusses a love that doesn't fade, whether or not it was a good or bad thing. Similar elements of the song to its precursors are its rawer guitar and forward propulsion set forward by the drumming. What makes it part of Three Cheers is its conscious sense of melody. The former had concentration on the workings of the song rather than its sound. 'Give 'Em Hell, Kid' is another track with a similar punk rock vibe, but in a much more refined way, the production of style of Three Cheers aiding it. The verses are crazy and full of surprises, the choruses strong and melodic, all leading to a giant ending. The album did earn the band a reputation, but it was this record that truly skyrocketed them. 

The album's singles are also to thank for the band's popularity being sent into momentum. Listening to this album today, it's hard to not sing along to the anthemic chorus of 'Helena' that chants "What's the worst thing I can say? Things are better if I stay / So long and goodnight." It's almost as iconic as the piano intro of 'Welcome To The Black Parade', but in a sing-a-long sort of way rather than being the defining song of emo rock. The beautiful lyrics and melodies are backed by a thrilling, alternative rock instrumental. The lyrics somewhat relate to the demolition lovers, as the character reminds herself that anger won't get her anywhere past the grief of losing her lover.

The other singles also make it clear how this album was important for the band. 'The Ghost Of You' features beautifully clean and haunting verses as Way dramatically sings before the big choruses that display the refined rage and sorrow the demolition lover feels not that he is lost without his other half. The way the guitar imitates the "Never coming home, never coming home" part that still rings as powerfully as it did over a decade ago. Lead single 'I'm Not Okay (I Promise)' is a more personal track that steps away from the demolition lovers' narrative, the pop rock song tackling a very "teenage" issue: a girl who is having troubles with her boyfriend asks the narrator who is dealing with his own problems in his life, puts them aside to help her just to be ignored. The girl loves all these "deep" songs but can't see the real problems of life, as the narrator tries to explain. The true alternative rock vibe of the song was enough to burst that era into a new frontier.

On a heavier ground, 'Thank You For The Venom' was the single that showed that My Chemical Romance still had the capability to produce great, heavy tracks with a rebellious statement. The thick guitar riffs (including the one in the intro) give the song an extra thickness that the rest of the album doesn't have. It discusses fear and helplessness, as well as sending a blasting messages to record labels who don't understand that the bands want to be part of their fans, too.

It's not all black and white on this record, though. There's some moments that stand out more than others. 'You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us In Prison' starts off groovy that ends wild and rambunctiously has interesting artistic choices (especially in the second verse) and features lots of cool little moments and elements that make it unique. There's a Western-vibe to 'Hang 'Em High', likely inspired by Way's enticement with Clint Eastwood (since this song shares a title with one of his movies). The western intro is followed by thrashing guitars and drums that ultimately come together throughout the rest of the song leading to a cluster of noise in the end. It preaches that you should never stop fighting.

Three Cheers doesn't shy away from more personal and intense topics, however. A "jetset" is a lifestyle that is defined by frequent traveling and drug use. This is exactly what Gerard Way struggled with whilst touring, almost dying in Japan in 2004. This experience and coming clean led to 'The Jetset Life Is Gonna Kill You', a song that really speaks for itself once you understand the story. The rock vibe of the instrumental that sounds similar to a Weezer track acts as a support for the message and the big vocals. On another note is 'Cemetery Drive', the light melody and vibe shadowing the meaning: coping with life after a loved one commits suicide. The instrumental is great and really supports the track's lost demeanor, the chorus beautifully yet simply doing the same with its chants of "I miss you, I miss you so far / And the collision of your kiss that made it so hard."

It all comes back to the narrative of I Brought You My Bullets. Lots of tracks have references to the story: the loss of a loved one in 'Helena', the convict that is coping with failing mental health in 'You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us In Prison', and the living lover being unaware of the deal the dead one made with the devil in 'Give 'Em Hell, Kid'. The only song that fully delves into the story is closing track 'I Never Told You What I Do For A Living'. The song combines the best of the elements of I Brought You My Bullets and Three Cheers: the complex structure and the convicted vocals of Bullets paired with the power of the vocals and production style of Three Cheers makes this song a true monster.

Filled to the brim with sweet melodies, big moments, and epic screams, the song exhibits the raw emotions of the demolition lovers as the main character fulfills his deal with the devil: killing a thousand evil souls so that he can once again see his lover. The lyrics deal with how the murders slowly become justified in the name of love, the narrator asking his lover to free him from the burden. The devil tricks him, in the end: the last soul he must kill is himself, expressed in the lyrics "Down / And down we go / And we all fall down" sung in a growing rage that builds to a vicious scream, ending in the heartbreaking yet simple screams of "I tried". The beautiful clean chorus defeatedly cries "And never again / And never again / They gave us two shots to the back of the head / And we're all dead now." The lines repeat with more energy until its last repetition, sounding more like dying words than a proclamation of victory. Whether or not he gets to see his lover again is up to interpretation, but the beautiful story comes to an end here.

My Chemical Romance's romanticization of death becomes clear in this album and continues under a different light in the one that follows. Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge ends the tragic tale of the demolition lovers in a burning and vivid conclusion. I personally like to believe they did see each other again, but the devil brought them both back to hell - the last words of the album ending with a bittersweet apology to her, but a gratefulness amongst them both that they are united once again. That's the beauty of this band - they can tell a vivid story with no clear ending but still have it be a masterpiece. Three Cheers was the start of their sound's evolution and a solidification of their songwriting ability, and all of that only improved as they progressed, and we all know where they went from there.

Favorite Tracks: I Never Told You What I Do For A Living, The Ghost Of You, Helena

Least Favorite Track: Interlude

Rating: 91 / 100