I couldn’t change the title of the article for the sake of regularity within our exclusive features, but had I been able to, the title might have read “Retrieve This From Your Garbage Can: My Chemical Romance – Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge“. If you’re anything like me, you probably saw the video for “Helena” on MTV in 2005 and dismissed My Chemical Romance as just another Yellowcard: terrible in all the worst ways.
Fortunately for me, I have a little brother who stuck on the My Chem wagon long enough to disprove my brash judgment. He forced me to sit down and listen to this album as a whole, and I was genuinely surprised at what a talented group I had managed to overlook (and embarrassed that I’m such a music Nazi). He was a fan pre-Three Cheers, when they were still on an independent label and hadn’t jumped to the majors yet. But he will attest to the fact (as will I) that Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge is their best to date– showcasing not only their ability to rock hard but to produce melodic, moving music, unlike most of their contemporaries.
Before we begin the dusting process, let’s get the facts in front of us. My Chemical Romance has been undeservedly placed into the “emo” genre, due to unwanted affiliations. If you’ll remember, around the same time this album was popular, so were albums like Fall Out Boy’s From Under The Cork Tree and The All-American Rejects’ Move Along. And since these were some of the biggest releases that year, they all sort of got corralled into playing together (compliments of MTV). Because of this, it was assumed that My Chemical Romance was just another emo-punk band whose name would soon become synonymous with the word “shit”. But if we look a little deeper, this band is something that desperately needs a second look. I feel they were misjudged, and I’m not the only one.
Lead singer Gerard Way addressed this issue, saying,
Basically, [emo’s] never been accurate to describe us. Emo bands were being booked while we were touring with Christian metal bands because no one would book us on tours. I think emo is f–ing garbage; it’s bulls–. I think there’s bands that unfortunately we get lumped in with that are considered emo, and by default that starts to make us emo.
So the band wasn’t oblivious to the problem at hand. They were the victims of bad timing and questionable marketing. The situation only got worse, however, with the release of their next album, The Black Parade. Due to its macabre nature, and its Hot Topic-friendly artwork and themes, the album pushed the band further into the hole they were stuck in. Every “troubled” emo kid at my high school had some sort of Black Parade paraphernalia that they most certainly purchased at our local Hot Topic.
All this accomplished was further contempt for the band from those of us who really valued our music, and a deepened hole for My Chemical Romance to dig themselves out of.
But anyways…we should start dusting. Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge is an album packed to the brim with catchy, somber pop-punk songs that are tough to resist. Unlike most of the bands they were lumped together with, who always cite the same boring, uninspired influences (Green Day, New Found Glory, The Get Up Kids, etc.), they have a legitimately compelling list of influences. They draw much of their imagery from horror films, as well as darker goth-rock bands from the late 70’s and 80’s– in particular The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Smiths, Joy Division, and The Smashing Pumpkins. To help illustrate what the band was about, Way said in an interview with Rolling Stone: “We love bands like Queen, where it’s huge and majestic, but also bands like Black Flag and the Misfits, who would go absolutely crazy.”
This is an incredibly apt description of themselves which can be seen throughout Three Cheers. They impress throughout the album with their genuine knack for pop-punk, which is utilized deftly during every song. But any band can do that. What make My Chem different is their unending versatility. They take that pop-punk and can add to it any number of things. They can give you that edge-of-your-seat Pantera riffing on songs like “Thank You For The Venom”, and then two minutes later have you convinced that you might be listening to a shoegazing Blonde Redhead.
At another point on the album you might be reminded of Freddie Mercury’s more easy-going vocals, on the track “You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us In Prison”, which easily calls to mind Mercury’s collected swagger on “Killer Queen”. And just when you think they’re going to be tapped out on talent and versatility, they’ll break out “The Ghost of You” which evokes memories of Matt Bellamy’s more raw, frantic performances (they have toured with Muse several times, as a fun side note).
All in all, My Chemical Romance is admittedly a pop-punk band, for better or worse. The genre carries massive amounts of negative connotations, and I in no way encourage you to go out and start listening to this commercial excuse for a genre. But this band is truly talented at what they do, and they break the boundaries that have been set for a band of their status. Gerard Way was born to front, Ray Toro to shred, and this band was created to break the mold. I think they deserve a second chance, particularly on the album Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, which is a modern punk masterpiece.