In memory of MCR and their ‘over-emotional pomp’. This is how they disappear.

The recent announcement that one-time spokespeople for the Emo generation My Chemical Romance were calling it a day brought many shades of eyeliner smudged tears to a lot of people I know. Quite why I’ll probably never understand… but in an effort to explain why I won’t be weeping, here’s an MCR live review I wrote for The Independent back in 2007.

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My Chemical Romance, Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle

Weds, 14 November 2007

A little more than a year ago, My Chemical Romance hoodwinked a capacity crowd at London’s Hammersmith Palais into believing that they had cancelled. In their place, a band called The Black Parade were to perform. Little by little, however, a hostile crowd recognised the true identities of the band on stage. From the second song, the New Jersey rockers had 1,800 punters eating out of their hands.

No such playful humour was on show tonight, however. Instead, fans witnessed a display of petulant goading and showboating pyrotechnics. The petulance is a sign of the predicament the band now find themselves in. Like many acts that have emerged from the underground, only to be embraced by the mainstream, they find the need to make petty challenges to the system to underline their punk-rock “authenticity”.

Yet MCR – pitched somewhere between Foo Fighters and Sum 41 – are as mainstream as alternative rock gets. Their songs move between the punk-by-numbers of “House of Wolves” and the grandiose stadium posturing of their biggest hit to date, “Welcome to the Black Parade”, met here with the raising of a sea of cameraphones.

The band’s rebellious edge comes largely from their singer, Gerard Way, a man who spent much of this gig berating the audience for not being loud enough or feigning a lack of interest in whether or not they were enjoying themselves – all this while launching into crowd-pleasing oldies such as the raunchy “I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love”.

But for all of Way’s sneering belligerence, his showmanship most resembles Freddie Mercury’s fist-in-the-air, call-and-response style. Way is a great but traditional frontman who inadvertently gives the band deep roots in the Establishment.

It is for this reason that MCR have been embraced by teenagers. Their rebellion is not unlike a Topshop street-style fashion line – safe, affordable and weird enough to make the wearer feel individual. The songs resonate because of their burdensome emotionalism. Songs such as “This is How I Disappear” embrace teen angst in a flurry of over-emotional pomp.

On songs such as the reggae-tinged, carnivalesque “Mama”, however, MCR seem able to move beyond this. Yet despite such moments of flair, their repertoire, like bad teenage poetry, continually brings you down to earth with a mournful bump.

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About stateofbass

Dr Martin James is Professor of Music Media Industries and course leader of BA(hons) Popular Music Journalism at Southampton Solent University. Martin is an internationally renowned music journalist who worked on the editorial teams of some of the biggest magazines on the International market. Over the last twenty years he has regularly contributed to almost every major music and lifestyle magazine, and numerous daily broadsheet newspapers. Martin has also written several Internationally published and critically acclaimed books about music. Since 2008 Martin has coordinated Southampton Solent University's associations with some of the UKs finest independent festivals including Glade, Bestival, Camp Bestival and Blissfields. In 2009 Martin organized the University's first music industries conference 'Solent Music Industries Live Event' (SMILE), featuring some of the biggest names in the world of music sharing their knowledge with students. SMILE is now an annual one-week event in Solent's calendar. Martin has also played in numerous bands to varying degrees of success!
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6 Responses to In memory of MCR and their ‘over-emotional pomp’. This is how they disappear.

  1. Louise Egan says:

    I can understand where you’re coming from with this review, but over-emotional and melodramatic are not necessarily bad things. It is those things that got MCR such a vast teenage audience, arguably one of the rites of passage for a teenager are the feelings of “my life is so hard compared to everyone else’s and bah im stressed and everything is changed wahh” and MCR gave an outlet for those emotions in their music. The live performances were very dramatic and theatrical, but this showed The Black Parade as more than an album, it was an event, evident in both the live performances and the ensuing societal uproar. Their performance on The Black Parade World Tour was not as themselves, and was in many ways reminiscent of the romping, eccentric Glam Rock movement. And yess that time is often described as the decade where it all went a bit funny in music, but My Chem modernised it into something bigger than just the album, and appealed to a teenage audience as a cathartic release of feelings of confusion and an often unwarranted sense of victimisation against the world. I do understand why you would have this opinion of MCR, as you say, it is just an old man’s honesty, so I don’t think you would have been in their target audience :P

    • stateofbass says:

      Louise, of course I see all revolutions through older eyes but am still open new ideas. I’d love to have ‘seen it all’,but I know there is so much more to see… which is why I’m not cynical about music and musicians. I can still feel that sense of grabbing burning embers from the heart of a fire… it’s about emotional connection. MCR didn’t connect with me in that way but so many artists have done, and still do today.

  2. rebexter says:

    I’m quite surprised by you’re opinion that MCR were playing for an audience and not taking the audience forward. MCR, for me, they changed the game of rock music. They pushed the boundaries into areas they hadn’t been and once those barriers were gone instead of carrying on they adapted whilst still keeping the overall message intact. Their songs were ruthlessly truthful and honest being highly reflective of the human condition. Often seeing fiction and the make believe worlds created by the band as a stark metaphor for real life. you may say they are recycling old ideas such as the performative elements of Bowie but that’s like saying any band who ‘perform’ are a pastiche or parody recycled from Bowie. The appeal of the band was being able to explore the darkest aspects from within yourself. As Gerard said in his goodbye statement “It is not a band-
    it is an idea.” they touched many peoples lives and without MCR, modern rock music would be very bland and unexcitable today.

  3. ‘I’m quite surprised by you’re opinion that MCR were playing for an audience and not taking the audience forward. In my opinion MCR changed the game of modern rock music. They blended the boundaries between art and rock, fiction and reality; it was more than a band but a statement on the world. The way they used fiction and the fantasy worlds conjured up in their heads as a stark metaphor for reality was ore inspiring. They helped illuminate the darkest areas of the human condion, areas teenagers seem to relish in. Depression, death, feeling rejected by society. But this only scratches the surface of the path of self-discovery the music has the potential to take you on. They pushed the boundaries into areas that hadn’t been, at least not for a while. And once those barriers were gone instead of carrying on they adapted whilst still keeping the overall message intact. You may compare the performative elements to the likes of Bowie. You may say its all be done before, but in a postmodern world it has all been done before. In that respect you can say any band that performs is a parody or a pastiche of Bowie. Everyone is undoubtedly untitled to their own opinion, a lot of people don’t like MCR but also a lot of people do. Personally I have never been more touched by music than I have from the songs that they create. Seeing them live was the single most ore inspiring experience in my life. As Gerard said in his goodbye statement
    “it is not a band- It is an idea.”
    Without MCR, rock music would be very bland to me today, I don’t know how many more Coldplay’s and Kasabian’s I could take!

  4. stateofbass says:

    I wouldn’t ever say that ‘any band that performs is a parody or a pastiche of Bowie’ – Bowie himself built a career on pastiche, parody etc. However his postmodernity was distinctly located in the forward thrust of modernism. The idea that their performance found the darkest elements of individual teen psyche is very subjective… but then again that’s what music is all about – subjectivity. And in my experience the finest bands/artists divide people into a simple love/hate binary

    There isn’t a right or wrong on this, but at the same time it’s too easy to say people might be too old to understand (as Louise does, and the teen argument points to), The teen condition isn’t unique to teens. Similarly I would never suggest that younger people couldn’t understand Bowie (or any of the old artists I loved as a teenager).

    Glad we agree on Coldplay and Kasabian ;)

  5. stateofbass says:

    BTW Rebecca, love the way you argue your points on MCR… you really bring out meaning in the heartfelt summary of what they stood for in your eyes. Beautifully put.

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