When My Chemical Romance broke out with 2004’s Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, I didn’t notice. A junior in high school, I was too busy listening to Radiohead, Dr. Dre, or the Broadway musical Rent, depending on what group of friends I was trying to fit in with at the time. And by the release of the the zeitgeist shattering followup, 2006’s The Black Parade, I was somewhere off at college, mismanaging my study time while lost in a cloud of bong smoke.
Every music lover has blind spots, and every budding critic tries to fill in the gaps as they go. However, by the time I earned my first bylines, My Chemical Romance had already gone on hiatus. There were more pressing gaps to fill, even as I tried to keep up with the dozens of new albums released every month.
But as the now-legacy rockers began to assemble for a much-delayed reunion tour earlier this spring, I decided the time had come. I waited until my one-year-old was napping, popped on my best headphones, and listened to The Black Parade for the first time.
Uh, holy shit. This album rules.
The Black Parade opens with “The End.” and the sound of a hospital heart rate monitor as The Patient slides inexorably towards death. “Now, come one, come all to this tragic affair,” Gerard Way begins by way of invitation. “Wipe off that makeup, what’s in is despair.”
The words brought back a high school memory: one of my goth buddies mocking the emo kids for their theatrical anguish, as if the only way you should be allowed to wear black eyeliner is if your music had growls instead of singing.
That same friend spent most of his free time rapping every word to Limp Bizkit’s “Nookie,” in case you had any illusions about his taste. Now, almost 20 years later, I could appreciate the sly humor of, “Wipe off that makeup, what’s in is despair,” and the playfulness of opening an album with “The End.”
My Chemical Romance’s rock opera ambitions are on full display with the album anchor, “Welcome to the Black Parade.” A multi-movement musical suite, it kicks off with tender piano as The Patient recalls their father’s words about death — or as the album would have it, joining “the Black Parade.” Marching drums transform into pummeling percussion as the first movement builds to a cacophonous climax, before the song enters its second, irresistibly catchy act. “We’ll carry on,” is a rousing anthem, even followed with, “And though you’re dead and gone, believe me/ Your memory will carry on.”