My Chemical Romance”s new album, “Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys,” out now, is set in the year 2019 in a post-Apocalyptic California, but the music is straight out of ’70s and ’80s rock.
Gerard Way and his high-energy band of merry malcontents weren”t around for Styx”s halcyon days, but there”s a little bit of the Grand Illusion in everything MCR does: It”s all about the big gestures: they swing for the fences every time. Whether they hit or miss is almost incidental, but, for the record, they hit much more than they miss here.
MCR had traded in cancer, the internal enemy in 2006″s fine “The Black Parade,” for an external villain here: the bloated excesses of rock, although I”m not sure they succeed in making their point. On MCR”s website, guitarist Frank Iero writes, “At first our instinct was to write a love letter to rock and roll, an entity that inspired us and gave us the opportunity to express our true selves. We later found out the best way to love rock and roll was to set out to destroy it, and the record then became a missile pointed directly at the genre.” Whatevs.
What matters here more than that somewhat obtuse message is the music and the passion and commitment that MCR exhibits here to providing nothing short of an all-in experience that is the aural equivalent of “Mad Max.” The snot-nosed kids here are disenfranchised and pissed, and who can blame them. They don”t know what to believe anymore, other than they don”t need another false hero, but they still cling to some semblance of hope. Or as Way sings in the urgent “Save Yourself, I”ll Hold Them Back”: “We can live forever if you”re got the time, mother fucker.”
From the punky first single, “Na, Na, Na…” to snyth-driven current single, “Sing,” and all points in between, MCR is on a freight train here, speeding toward the end of days. Remarkably, other than a few times, such as on the fuzzy “Destroya,” they have crafted a thoroughly melodic pop album that even the most weighty of ambitions can”t bring down. As well crafted as the lyrics are here, the stretch for some sense of profundity in almost every song gets to be a bit much: “You only hear the music when your heart begins to break,” Way sings on “The Kids from Yesterday.” Huh?
The interstitial segments featuring a DJ that bookend the album are totally extraneous, especially the last one followed by the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner.” (For those of you too young to remember, TV and radio stations weren”t always 24/7, and when they signed off in the early morning, they played the National Anthem).
The rocket ride slows down only slightly for the lovely, melodic, dreamy “Summertime,” where the protagonist tells his love, “you can run away with me anytime you want,” to the strains of ’80s Brit pop. When each tune strives to be an anthem, the ultimate effect is they all lose some of their power, although that”s a small complaint. This is an album that is meant to take the listener on a journey and it”s a journey that never lets up. By the time album closer, the high-octane, breakneck “Vampire Money,” finishes, fans will feel ground to a pulp and exhausted, and that”s just the way MCR wants it.