a long over due exploration of my chemical romance
I finally listen to MCR. I tell you what I think.
Well folks. We're finally here. I'm discussing something I should absolutely be familiar with. Unlike a lot of albums I talk about here, My Chemical Romance is, well, emo culture. I should be familiar. It's honestly a little embarrassing that I'm not, but I'll make a case for why this happened.
As one of the most commercially successful bands ever dubbed with The E Word, MCR is a lot of people's entry point into the genre. MCR, Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, all of these are huge entry points for people– especially people around my age (24). Many of my friends love these bands, I never really got too into them. I like a collection of Fall Out Boy songs, but never really loved them overall and can say even less about the other two bands. My introduction to emo was a Taking Back Sunday CD I loved and a Dashboard Confessional CD I hated. I was more into the neon pop punk of 2008-2011, then I got into Warped Tour khaki shorts pop punk and emo revival.
I got into emo revival because I watched Dan Campbell interview Evan Weiss when I was 15 and immediately decided Into It. Over It. was my favorite band and would religiously listen to anything I could find related to that dude's music. My emo journey very much went through the currently popular pop punk of the time then going back to the second wave/midwest emo that influenced the emo revival I loved when I was a teenager.
I felt alienated by the culture around MCR. When I was young, I was pretty invested in the personalities around All Time Low and The Maine and Mayday Parade, but the FoB/MCR/PATD contingency always felt pretty overwhelming. Like, sure, I saw Pete Wentz's dick on the internet, but I didn't really know anything about the guy! MCR is even more distant because– unlike Fall Out Boy, who had tons of songs on the radio– I really only ever knew "Welcome to the Black Parade" and then they broke up. I remember that happening because I was on tumblr, but it just felt like when a TV show you don't watch has a disappointing ending. It's around, you're aware of it, you let people do their thing.
I think watching the real mourning around the MCR break-up when I was 15 felt even more alienating than any other discussion around the band. It's not that it didn't make sense to me, but I do think people love that band to this day in a really special way and people have a really special relationship with this kind of huge cultural emo wave. It's formative for so many people and I don't want to rag on it. In theory, I get it! The theatrics of it are appealing. People seem to have affinity for every member of the band. Gerard Way is obviously an incredibly talented, thoughtful writer. There are movements and eras within their discography. That special relationship people have with the band makes sense, it's just not my experience. I was too busy listening to "Wow, I Can Get Sexual Too" on my iPod Nano.
I would like to swear off concept records for this newsletter, but today I will be discussing my experience listening to the "pseudo conceptual horror story" that is Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. I will be attempting to have some fun with it. Maybe I'll find some red eyeshadow (is that this album?) and drop my snarky comments about third wave emo. I will not be diving deep into the lore of the album. You all can access genius dot com.
As a disclaimer, I've been defining a lot of these bands by their fanbases instead of by sound because that's most of my first hand experience associated with them. I know sonically they're not always great comparisons. It's just that the huge culture of mainstream emo lumps them together and I will, too, because that's what turned me off them as a young teenager.
You know, I was pretty confident I knew this one. The chorus sounds familiar, but truly nothing else does. I expect that on every song I'll think, "this has more going on than I expected" and this one is no exception. I get the appeal of this kind of thing. It's huge.
I do think, in my head, this is what Alkaline Trio should sound like.
Give 'Em Hell Kid
This song sounds like a man writhing on the floor with a microphone. It's that kind of song. Catchy, though! The band writes the hell out of a chorus. I like the chaotic energy of it.
To The End
I don't like the whispering. Can do without that at the beginning of "Helena" too. I like this on the least so far. It feels super dated. This is just sooo 2004 to me.
"If you marry me, would you bury me?"
I just don't vibe with this one. One time my friend Eli Enis asked me if I like guitar solos and honestly? I don't think I do. Is that a personality flaw? Maybe. But I just don't think I care much for them.
You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us in Prison (Ft. Bert McCracken)
Bert! I've never really listened to The Used either. This one's a little jaunty, huh? Kinda fun. Usually jaunt is not for me, but kinda fun! I like the vocal delivery of this one more than the rest. I think the really over the top, drawn out inflection when he says, "enough of this" is especially charming.
"I won't go down by myself, but I'll go down with my friends" is a real good pop punk vibe. Suppy nation brah.
I'm Not Okay (I Promise)
Okay, this one I know. Remember when you broke your foot.
Never liked this song. Feels like cheap fodder for social media captions. I can just see the Picnik edited photo with the title typed in an abomination of a font next to a girl with side bangs looking down.
The Ghost of You
Absolutely not. I definitely would have liked this at like 12, though. I liked Secondhand Serenade and all kinds of worse heavy handed garbage. Remember Secondhand Serenade? That dude's still making music under that name, I think. Isn't that wild? I think it's Christian now, too, but don't quote me on that.
The Jetset Life is Gonna Kill You
One thing I can say for this album is that we are flying through it! I feel like it just started and we're so many songs in. Even the songs I don't really like are catchy enough to not feel like a slog, which I guess is all I can really ask.
This one made no impression. More snarly voice, more full speed ahead rock music, more talk of death and love and all those themes I expect from this band.
I acknowledge I'm not really, like, engaging with the overarching story here so I'll let this go.
Thank You for the Venom
Is this a guitar hero song? This feels like it should be a guitar hero song.
You know, I find so many of these songs eye roll inducing for the first minute, then the bridge and chorus kick in and it's just undeniable. It's so heavy handed, but the choruses are exciting! Insanely catchy music. The structure is similar throughout a lot of these songs. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, almost the same exact guitar solo, slow build back up, chorus..
Hang 'Em High
This one is cool. I like when the songs do a really sharp left turn early on. This one starts jaunty, but disintegrates quick and I like that. Just fast guitar music.
It occurred to me during this song that we don't see as many album covers with a man and woman about to kiss anymore. That feels so 2000s. Is it because we're less interested in using women as props on album covers? Is it just a dead album art trend? Music is always about relationships, but it kind of feels like doing it this way and centering your album art around the image of a woman is kind of dead. Though this album has nothing on the album art for Boys and Girls in America (Deluxe Edition) by The Hold Steady when it comes to weird Couple Almost Kissing energy.
It's Not a Fashion Statement, It's a Fucking Deathwish
Cool song, dork ass title.
This is my favorite song on this album. I like this one a lot. I can see myself listening to this again. I restarted the song to listen to it again. At least in the verses, I think this one is the most like Taking Back Sunday style bratty emo of all the songs on this album, which is probably why I like it a lot. The choruses are still big MCR choruses, but combined with the verses this is a great song.
I Never Told You What I Do for a Living
No thoughts on this one. Not for me.
I think had I really given this a shot at age 12 this could have really had an impact on me. I get why people are really into this. I get how this kind of music could wedge itself into your brain and cause obsessive fandom. It's heavy handed with its themes and theatrical about its feelings, but that's the charm of it and any negative thing I could really say is wiped away by how massive those choruses are.
I guess that's all I got on MCR for ya. So long & goodnight!
Miranda Reinert is a music adjacent writer, zine maker, and law school drop out based in Philadelphia. Follow me on Twitter to hear more about the boring emo I have dedicated my life to: @mirandareinert. I also have a paid tier of this newsletter for $5 a month or $45 a year! If you do that I'll give you at least one free zine if you respond to this email with a mailing address! Wow! Might want to get in on that! You may also just send me small bits of money at @miranda-reinert on venmo if you want. But as always, thanks for reading!