Building a timeless legacy is a near impossible feat. To live on in others' hearts after you are gone is something we all strive for; it is the human form of immortality. Such an immense task it is to create that endless recognition, surely only the greatest of the great can achieve it.
The answer is both yes and no. Yes, it does take someone great to live on forever in such a way. But you don't have to be a legend to live on in others' memories. Anyone can be immortal. All that they have to do is live their life as they want to and be who they are - live life how you wish to be remembered.
People may struggle with that, and then, in turn, those who help them realize otherwise become the ones who will live on in their hearts. For millions upon millions, that's My Chemical Romance. Their music gave both the happy and the sad a place to confide in, whether for enjoyment or for hope.
It's been three years since the band called it quits. Some may have called it the end of something life-changing, but can such a thing really just come to an end? Just because they have stated that they are no longer a group together, their messages and music will always be here, perhaps more alive than ever. That hasn't changed just because the band won't be releasing new material again.
It's been a decade since their magnum opus The Black Parade was released, so we've been reviewing all of their records from start to end this month: I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, and, of course, The Black Parade. We've now reached the end of the road (barring Conventional Weapons, but we'll save that for another time). The band saw a lot of change, from the punk abrasion of their debut to the anthemic, theatrical chaos of The Black Parade, but what they last offered up was something you might not have expected from them.
Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys is My Chemical Romance's final album, released in 2010. It may be the band's most eclectic record, but it also isn't all that unfamiliar. In true MCR fashion, the record tells a story throughout its runtime. It's set in post-apocalyptic California, now in the Land Of The Fabulous Killjoys, where the rambunctious are the world's leaders while the outliers hide back in the shadows and stay quiet.
The clearest innovation on this record (for the band) is the emphasis on electronic elements. My Chemical Romance had never really delved into this space; their music took guitars and melody as their primary source of appeal, with the occasional funky instrumentation and piano finding their way into the music. The same band that wrote 'Welcome To The Black Parade' is the band performing 'Planetary (GO!)' on this record, the video game boss sirens introducing the track as glitchy electronics and sweeping synths fill the verses before the upbeat, dancey choruses kick in with bouncy beats and rhythm guitar punches in between. The message behind the track is essentially that life is short (the first chorus croons "If my velocity starts to make you sweat / Then just don't let go / And if their Heaven ain't got a vacancy / Then we just... get up and go," encouraging its listener to just get up and do what they want to with life), but it's evident throughout the track that the meaning isn't really meant to be the focus of the track. It serves its narrative purpose, but the main goal of the track is to get you amped up and get you dancing, pairing it with the bouncy synths and electrifying energy. The scenario is the same in 'S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W,' which shows a side to the band we've never gotten a good taste of. It's goody and has a sort of uncaring abandon to it - it's powerful and ballad-y just like it should be, but it's lacking of any darkness (in sound). The chorus is sung falsetto, the light vocals and bright instrumental making the song sound happy.
Electronica has a major influence on the record, making it stand out among the rest of the band's discography. It's also the build of 'The Only Hope For Me Is You,' its pretty, wavy intro leading into thick bassy synths that can be comparable to CHVRCHES in today's music. The choruses are closer to the MCR we'd all grown to love, rhythm guitar chugging with drive, the synth arpeggios running beneath them and Gerard Way's sweet melody. The song plays to a theme of the record that no matter how crazy the world may seem, you can always find your place in it and find the person you're meant to live in it with.
The album is completely electronic, of course; MCR does a fantastic job of blending their alternative rock flair with their new fascination with electronics. The best example is iconic single 'SING,' its intro up there with some of the band's most memorable moments. The verse is a brooding build as synths slowly grow over each other before a sweet instrumental underlies Way's encouraging chorus. The song has a drama to it that's very reminiscent of their past works, the drums and piano really creating urgency and even some darkness in the track. The bridge brings it back to basics, Ray Toro taking over with a confident guitar riff with layers of guitar that build up to make the bridge powerful and immense. It's one big call to arms, bringing all together to be free.
'Summertime' is a sweeter song that's not out to hype anyone up. It's just as good a blend of electronica as 'SING' is, perhaps with a bit more emphasis on the electronics, but it's remarkably more cheerful. The guitar solo in the bridge pairs with the bright, subtle synths perfectly. The song sees Gerard singing "if you stay I would even wait all night / Or until my heart explodes" in an almost confessional way, crooning about how love and his wife got him through some truly rough spots in life.
The track 'Bulletproof Heart' is the spiritual predecessor of 'Summertime,' though this one has more finality to it than hope. It actually feels like the appropriate summation of the end of My Chemical Romance. The unintentional foreshadowing unfortunately did not end up making saying goodbye any easier, but it does provide justification. The chorus has the submissive lines "Gravity / Don't mean too much to me / I'm who I've got to be," Way admitting that the intensity of the situation is of less significance than what it build him up to be. He isn't bounded by the laws or expectations everyone has of him; he has lived his own life and has become what he wanted to become, and that's all that matters to him in the end. The song ends in a huge, uplifting way, the choruses' Queen-esque harmonies pairing with a guitar solo to bring it to its dramatic, emotional ending. This song could've closed the record in an ironic but brilliant way.
With all of this sentimentality, we can't ignore the heavier, rawer tracks on the record. We don't see many with pure rock flair, but where it does exist, it's awesome. 'DESTROYA' is one example, the raw, tribal beat pairing with a vocal delivery full with reckless abandon à la the Beastie Boys, lovely guitar that imitates the vocal melody in the final choruses. The lead single 'Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)' (that took very careful counting) also has a rawer voicing to it, and while the whole "na na na" part of the song can be hard to swallow at first, they do grow on you and make the song all the much better. The guitar riff is all the hype, the chorus harmonies also making the song special. It's an underdog song, much like 'DESTROYA,' calling upon the dreamers who "want to change the world" to get out there and do it.
I claimed that 'Bulletproof Heart' could've been the perfect ending to the record, but the way it does end isn't all that bad. 'The Kids From Yesterday' is uplifting in the best of ways, the chorus lyrics really hitting hard in particular: "And you only live forever in the lights you make / When we were young we used to say / That you only hear the music when your heart begins to break / Now we are the kids from yesterday," stating that you can't live forever in a literal sense: you live in the memories you make. People may not recognize the significance of those memories every moment, but when you need something to rely on, they'll be there. Dr. Death, the radio show host that appeared in narrative interludes throughout the record signs out on 'Goodnite, Dr. Death' with a concert band performance of 'The Star-Spangled Banner' that concludes in earsplitting noise (thanks, MCR) before the final track 'Vampire Money' rolls in.
This is it - the final song in the band's discography (not counting the collections released after this record or bonus track 'Zero Percent'). Take a second to absorb that in, then forget all about it in the crazy fun of 'Vampire Money.' Way's obsession with death and its carriers followed him all the way to the end of the band. The album's closer a crazy and unrelenting in the classic My Chemical Romance fashion, the pure rock n' roll vibes and surfer rock solo blasting confidently with the same energy and craziness of 'Party Poison' with its Japanese spoken word and electronic explosiveness. 'Vampire Money' is a blast on the media, but like mentioned before, the meaning is almost lost in the track's sound. It's a big, confident, fun ending to a legacy that will live forever.
That concludes the story of My Chemical Romance. The final words of 'Vampire Money': "This party, I think it's way too loud. Going to have to turn it down a little, sorry" in an ironically innocent note. The band who both cheated and romanticized death "die" in a party on a light note. Perhaps that's what it was: this crazy, wild ride was a party. We had fun, we had emotions (at times just drunken euphoria, really), and at the end of all, we had to admit when we had had enough before we got ahead of ourselves.
My Chemical Romance is an entity that will never die, despite their constant obsession with death. They told brilliant stories and sent assuring messages to those who needed them. This band saved lives and gave light to others. The band may not be more than a memory, but sometimes memories are all we need. Their meaning will never be lost as long as we cherish what made them so important to us in our hearts for as long as we can remember them. Thanks for the music, My Chemical Romance. May we meet again one day - in heaven or hell, or maybe even here on Earth is yet to be seen, but we all know that the end is never really the end.
Favorite Tracks: Bulletproof Heart, Sing, DESTROYA, The Only Hope For Me Is You, The Kids From Yesterday
Least Favorite Tracks: The interludes (especially Goodnite and it's earsplitting screeching)
Rating: 95 / 100