On Why My Chemical Romance's 'Danger Days' Album Was Their Best

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A few weeks ago, midway through a show some friends of mine were headlining, one of the opening acts bashfully took the stage — and, within 2 minutes, I had their lead singer pegged. Rumpled button-down/suit vest combo? Check. Black mop of face-obscuring bangs? Check. Rambling confessional lyrics that contained words like "rancor"? Oh dear God, the checks. Immediately, I leaned over to my friend and whispered "Vintage Gerard Way," to which he nodded back, wide-eyed, as if trying to assess whether we'd accidentally time-warped back to 2004. This is not to insult this young man and his group — anyone who gets up on a stage has some commendable nerve, and they really weren't half bad, providing you're into that sort of thing. But it is absolutely to point out the pervasiveness of the early My Chemical Romance aesthetic, as well as the "oh dear" it tends to inspire.

From 2003's Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge on forward, Way and his cohorts were a primary beacon for the leaky black eyeliner set, with tracks like "I'm Not Okay," "It's Not a Fashion Statement, It's a Fucking Deathwish," and "Helena" buoying them through to 2006's The Black Parade, their concept album about a cancer patient, complete with black marching band attire. And apparently, according to Way, that's where it was supposed to stop: As the former frontman recently revealed to NME, he had planned to end MCR after the Black Parade tour, foregoing entirely 2010's bombastic Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, because "To go beyond [The Black Parade] felt like betraying some sort of artistic command that I had within myself." To which I can only say, thank God he has a pliable relationship with the voices in his head.

Because yes, we will all always have a special, black-velvet-lined place in our hearts for the first time we heard Way explain to us just how "not o-fucking-kay" he was — but Danger Days came at us bright and colorful and nonetheless musically effective, a refreshing fuck-around for a band usually so slathered in capital-S Sentiment. The zany comic-book-style concept universe created by Way, a former Cartoon Network animator and current Spiderman penner for Marvel, is as goofy as it is cool-looking. The lyrics, too, are infinitely more fun-oriented, from the opening track's celebratory kick off shout — "Look alive, sunshine!" — to the "na na na" nonsense chorus.

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And while I necessarily have mixed feelings about their later lyric checks of The MC5 (see: "kick out the jams") and Iggy Pop (see: "street-walkin' cheetah") on "Party Poison," you've got to appreciate the impulse to hat-tip their musical forefathers — the same way I ultimately kind of love how the fanciful title, dystopian setting (complete with in-song spoken explanation), and even the red hair are a blatant pastiche of David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust and Diamond Dogs, respectively.

Personal tastes aside, however (my heart happens to bleed 70s glam), Danger Days just feels more comfortable overall — a few minutes of frenzied dress-up amid a sea of Important Emotional Pronouncements. Even "Sing," arguably the most OG MCR track of the bunch, is still allowed a host of major chords. So, as Way puts his pen to some new solo material — also unexpected, apparently, as his artistic head-voice plan goes — one can only ask, humbly, that he ignore his instincts again and deliver more of the glittery, ridiculous same.

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