The legacy continues. My Chemical Romance's critically acclaimed The Black Parade celebrates its ten year anniversary next month, and ahead of it's release, the band has rereleased the album on vinyl, along with a second disk entitled Living With Ghosts, featuring a load of demos and rough mixes.
We'll skip ahead to the demos - our thoughts on The Black Parade will be coming next month. There a number of songs on that album in which their demo form appear on Living With Ghosts. The most notable is the first demo on the record, 'The Five Of Us Are Dying'. At first unrecognizable, when the guitars and verse kick in, you realize you're listening to one of the first versions of 'Welcome To The Black Parade'. Starkly different from the original, the song's signatures and iconic parts are all missing. The only parts that are truly similar are the verses - even the guitars in the choruses are different! It shares a guitar solo, albeit a different take that's pretty cool to listen to. You can hear the uncertainty in the vocals, as if Gerard Way wasn't actually certain that the song was ready yet. The potential was soon to be discovered. While it's the demo of 'Welcome', the ending also bares some similarities to the intro of 'Cancer'.
Two versions of 'House Of Wolves' can be found on the record, too. Both live mixes, the first version that appears is extremely different from the album version. It begins dramatically with a guitar line and an urgent but subtle drum line before bursting into powerchords and crash cymbals. This version lacks cohesion, but it's interesting to hear what the song was originally. The second version is more akin to the version we're all familiar with, in a rawer and less-complete fashion. 'Disenchanted' appears near the end of the tracklist, beginning with an electric guitar and Way assuring his bandmates that he knows the lyrics, unlike the acoustic beginnings of the album track. There are some mistakes throughout, particularly in the second guitar, but, again, it's cool to listen to.
A live demo of 'Mama' has, in a way, more silliness to it than the album version with Gerard singing out of time without any regard for staying on beat, and some rocking pinch harmonics in the heavy choruses. Bonus tracks 'Kill All Your Friends' and 'My Way Home Is Through You' are also featured as live demos, the rawness contrasting the restrained sound on the album versions.
There are a handful of never-before heard demos, too, and some of them are quite interesting. The first is 'Party At The End Of The World', a demanding track that makes you wonder what it would sound like if it was probably mixed and mastered. 'Not That Kind Of Girl' is another interesting one, with a confusing perspective. Way sings in the chorus, "So say goodbye to all my friends / I fell in love with her again / My baby / Cause I'm not that kind of girl," which begs to ask: is Gerard singing from the perspective of himself, or the girl? Is the narrator a girl? These are things we'd know better if the songs were properly mixed and, you know, finished.
The two most interesting songs on the record are ones we haven't heard before. The first is 'Emily'. The demo, branded a "Rough Mix," starts with a pretty complex drum beat before Gerard Way sings hauntingly above light guitars. The choruses are powerful, but there are some really well thought out instrumental melodies on this song. The fact that it was mixed means this song was pretty deep into the process of making it onto the record - it definitely feels like it fits right into the tracklist. It builds powerfully to the end, seeing a heavier and heavier progression as it concludes.
The closing track 'All The Angels' is another very interesting demo. The guitar arpeggios are creepy with a Western tinge as Way sings in a tortured fashion as the song slowly builds, a kick drum carrying the beat as the first chorus kicks in, as Gerard Way croons "And all the angels say / Ooh, ooh / You are all to blame" in a very reprimanding fashion. The Black Parade was an ode to death, but it never seemed to assign blame. Perhaps that's why 'All The Angels' didn't make it onto the record; it's message is that everyone around the protagonist is to blame for his death. It's tone would fit right in place at the end of the record, maybe as a retrospective ending. 'Famous Last Words' did a perfect job at closing the album out, though, so perhaps it's best to leave that alone. 'All The Angels' definitely would've found home on The Black Parade comfortably, its creepy, defeated vibe adding a lot to the message of death.
The Black Parade was an iconic album, yet even the most famous songs had to have started somewhere. Living With Ghosts shows off the humble beginnings of some of the album's dearest tracks, as well as introducing fans to some songs that never quite made the limelight. After ten years of growing with these songs, we can finally see how they started to grow. My Chemical Romance may not be together anymore, but their legacy won't die any time soon.
Favorite Tracks: All The Angels, Emily
Least Favorite Tracks: My Way Home Is Through You, The Five Of Us Are Dying
Rating: 70 / 100