Saturday, 6 April 2013

Postmodern Artists: My Chemical Romance

Genre: Alternative rock (predominantly) 
Years active: 2001 - 2013
Members: Gerard Way, Frank Iero, Ray Toro and Mikey Way. 
Based in: New Jersey, US.

     The band name itself is taken from an Irvine Welsh book, a collection of three stories called 'Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance'. They also said that the themes within Irvine Welsh's 'Train Spotting' and 'Acid House' were very influential. 
     As an artist, Gerard always had  a vision in terms of the aesthetic of the band as well as how the music would sound. This and a love of horror films and musicals such as 'Phantom of the Paradise' and 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' gave My Chemical Romance the look that some called 'emo'. This look, however, changed drastically with each album as the style of the music changed. Each studio album had a very different sound, initially with a grungey rock sound which developed into punk and alternative rock and finishing with the last album that encompassed more pop themes and electronic sounds as well as the usual rock sound. Gerard Way said it was like taking the mainstream sound and using it against them to give it meaning. 
     One of their musical influences was Iron Maiden which Gerard said gave him the theatre influence. Another 'theatre-esque' band they were influenced by was the Misfits, who were important in New Jersey at the time the band was growing up. The punk aspect of My Chemical Romance comes from Black Flag and Gerard has stated that they were the reason he became obsessed with the idea of revenge. The themes of revenge are very dominant in the albums, especially their second, also because the band had always felt like outcasts growing up. Another, and a very different influence was The Smiths, who gave lyrical inspiration and the contrast of the bleakness with how 'pop' the music was. Mikey Way, the bassist commented saying 'We were talking about starting a band and like what would be like an ideal band that we'd wanna listen to and we always said like wouldn't a band be great if Morrissey were in the Misfits. That'd be such a kick-ass band, we should really try it someday.' They have also cited David Bowie and Queen as other major influences.

Debut album: 'I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love' (2002)

     The album is often regarded as a concept album with a narrative link to their second album 'Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge'. It is believed that the story involves two Bonnie and Clyde-esque characters. There is a very obvious theme of the supernatural - vampires and other un-dead creatures, and these may be used metaphorically for those who exploit or corrupt others. These elements mainly come from Gerard Way, the lead singer, who before starting the band was working as a comic book artist and had been working on a vampire comic which was never completed. Instead these themes came through in the music he created.

Track Listing:
  1. Romance
  2. Honey, This Mirror Isn't Big Enough for the Both of Us. 
  3. Vampires Will Never Hurt You
  4. Drowning Lessons
  5. Our Lady Of Sorrows
  6. Headfirst for Halos
  7. Skylines and Turnstiles
  8. Early Sunsets over Monroeville
  9. This is the Best Day Ever
  10. Cubicles
  11. Demolition Lovers
1. Romance:

     This track was taken from a guitar piece of which the origin and the composer aren't known, though it is suspected to be from the 19th century. It has been used by many different artists and has been played and recorded in different ways. 

My Chemical Romance's version of 'Romance'

'Forbidden Games/Romance of Love' - Tom Jones

     A vocal version of the piece arranged by B. Parker and Marc Lanjean, also performed by Miriam Makeba, a South African singer. 

'Forbidden Games' - Ginette Reno

'The Outskirts' - Buck 65
Uses the piece as backing

2. Honey, This Mirror Isn't Big Enough for the Both of Us

     The songs deals with drug use and reflects on alcohol abuse and lead singer Gerard Way once introduced the song on stage by saying 'this song is about sucking dick for cocaine'. 
     The original music video for the song was directed by Marl Debiak and Grey Sky Films and is very similar to a film called 'Audition' directed by Takashi Miike. 'It is about a man looking for a spouse and after a series of interviews, he finds a woman. After their first date he tries to find where she lives and apparently cannot find her address. When he returns to his home, he pours himself a drink and after drinking it collapses on the floor. The woman comes out of a doorway. She then proceeds to torture the paralyzed man, putting needles in his chest and below his eye and chopping off his leg.'

My Chemical Romance's 'Honey, This Mirror Isn't Big Enough for the Both of Us' music video

Takashi Miike's 'Audition' film trailer

8. Early Sunsets over Monroeville

     This song was inspired by the film 'Dawn of the Dead', making use of references to the film in the lyrics. 

My Chemical Romance's 'Early Sunsets over Monroeville'

The 1978 'Dawn of the Dead' trailer

11. Demolition Lovers:

     Apart from the narrative links between this album and the second there is also this track, the last track on Bullets. The name 'Demolition Lovers' is also the name given to the cover artwork of 'Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge'. 

My Chemical Romance's 'Demolition Lovers'

Second album: 'Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge' (2004)

     Gerard Way was quoted as saying: 'The concept for the record 'Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge' was the story of a man and a woman who are separated by death in a gunfight and he goes to hell only to realise by the devil telling him that she's still alive. The devil says 'you can be with her again if you bring me the souls of a thousand evil men', and so he hands him a gun and he says 'I'll go do it'. That was the idea behind the concept, the record ended up being a lot more about loss and real life than anything so it's a good split.'   
     The artwork 'Demolition Lovers II' was created by lead singer Gerard Way and was inspired by his favourite painting 'The Lovers' a painting by Rene Margritte. This pictures were also recreated on the DVD 'Life on the Murder Scene' with real people.

Rene Margritte's 'The Lovers'

Cover to the 'Life on the Murder Scene' DVD

Track Listing:
  1. Helena
  2. Give 'Em Hell, Kid
  3. To The End
  4. You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us in Prison
  5. I'm Not Okay (I Promise)
  6. The Ghost of You
  7. The Jetset Life is Gonna Kill You
  8. Interlude
  9. Thank You for the Venom
  10. Hang 'Em High
  11. It's Not a Fashion Statement, It's a Fucking Deathwish
  12. Cemetery Drive
  13. I Never Told You What I Do For a Living

4. You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us in Prison:

     Like David Bowie and other post-modern artists My Chemical Romance liked to play with constructs and boundaries of sexuality. They always made it clear that there was no place for prejudice of any kind at a My Chemical Romance show. The way that they portrayed themselves on stage, therefore, reflected this with Frank, the rhythm guitarist, saying that it would be ironic that if two guys were fighting in the crowd they were to look up at there'd be two guys kissing on stage. These homosexual themes also entered a few of the lyrics, with this song being a main one as the title suggests. 

My Chemical Romance's 'You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us in Prison'

5. I'm Not Okay (I Promise)

     There were two videos made for 'I'm Not Okay', the first being made up of concert footage and clips of the band. The second version is a conventional music video. This depicts life inside a fictional American high school and is made to look like a trailer for a film. The band are the 'outcasts' and at the end of the video they attempt to take on the popular kids. 
     The cover art for the single was also recreated with real people on the 'Life on the Murder Scene' DVD. 

My Chemical Romance's 'I'm Not Okay (I Promise)' music video

'I'm Not Okay (I Promise) single cover artwork

Inside cover of 'Life on the Murder Scene' DVD

6. The Ghost of You

     The band has been quoted as saying that when making this music video they 'shot a movie and just edited it to be a video.' It closely parallels the opening of Saving Private Ryan, which is what Gerard asked of the director, Marc Webb. Half of the video dance where the band are performing and the in the other half it shows the D-Day scenes, in which the band members play as soldiers.
     The song's title is an allusion to an advert that read 'Oh, how the ghost of you clings'. This itself was an allusion to the song, 'These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You), a song that deals with losing a loved one.

My Chemical Romance's 'The Ghost of You' music video

The opening of 'Saving Private Ryan'

Frank Sinatra's 'These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)'

9. Thank You for the Venom

     Along with the 'Demolition Lovers' and the partial narrative overlap with My Chemical Romance's first two albums there is also this track. The name of the track can be seen in French on the back cover of lyric booklet to 'I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love'. 

My Chemical Romance's 'Thank You for the Venom'

Back cover of the lyric booklet to 'I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love'

Third album: 'The Black Parade' (2006)

     'The Black Parade' is a rock opera and a concept album based on a character known as 'The Patient' who has cancer and is dying. The album tells the story of his death, his experiences in the afterlife, and his reflection on his life. When 'The Patient' dies death comes for him in the form of a parade, this is based upon Gerard Way's belief that death comes for a person in the form of his or her fondest memory. 
     One of the initial names for the album was 'The Rise and Fall of My Chemical Romance' based on David Bowie's album 'The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars'.
     With the album came an alter ego for the band, calling themselves 'The Black Parade'. To portray this image they performed in costume for the 'Black Parade' tour. This costume was alike to the marching uniforms worn by The Beatles for the 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' album. Gerard Way cut and dyed his hair white to reflect 'The Patient' and to create another new look for the album. Mikey Way wears a military medal on his uniform, which is possibly a throwback to the 'The Ghost of You' video in which his character dies. 

My Chemical Romance's 'The Black Parade' Costume

The Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' Costume

     The live performance for the album was very theatrical, with Gerard Way portraying the character of a member of The Black Parade. His mannerisms have been compared to the character played by Bob Geldof in the movie adaptation of Pink Floyd's 'The Wall'. His performance was also compared to David Bowie's performance of Ziggy Stardust. Gerard Way cited the bands Queen and Pink Floyd as major influences on this album especially. 

My Chemical Romance performing 'The End' live

Pink's speech from 'The Wall'

David Bowie performing 'Ziggy Stardust' live

Track Listing:
  1. The End
  2. Dead!
  3. This is How I Disappear
  4. The Sharpest Lives
  5. Welcome to the Black Parade
  6. I Don't Love You
  7. House of Wolves
  8. Cancer
  9. Mama
  10. Sleep
  11. Teenagers
  12. Disenchanted
  13. Famous Last Words
Hidden Track:

    14. Blood

Bonus Tracks:
  1. Heaven Help Us
  2. My Way Home is Through You
  3. Kill All Your Friends

1. The End

     The influence of Pink Floyd's 'The Wall' and David Bowie's 'The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars' are especially evident in the album's opening track, 'The End'. There is a definite comparison to be made between this song and 'In the Flesh?' by Pink Floyd and 'Five Years' by Bowie.
     There is also irony because it is the first track and yet it is called 'The End'.

My Chemical Romance's 'The End'

Pink Floyd's 'In the Flesh?'

David Bowie's 'Five Years'

5. Welcome to the Black Parade

     Originally titled 'The Five of Us are Dying', 'Welcome to the Black Parade' was the first single from 'The Black Parade' album. According to Gerard the song 'personifies the whole record'. There are similarities between the guitar orchestration in this song and the arrangements of Queen. 
     The song looks back on 'The Patient's' memory of his father taking him to a parade and the video depicts that this parade comes to the character in death. The video portrays the events of the entire story, starring all its characters including 'The Patient' dressed in a hospital gown who is being lead into death by the parade. The video also features three other main characters: 'Fear', 'Regret' and 'Mother War'. All of the costumes were designed by Colleen Atwood, known for her collaborations with Tim Burton.

My Chemical Romance's video for 'Welcome to the Black Parade'

     The cover for the single is taken from the video, with 'The Patient' standing in the middle and 'Fear' and 'Regret' on either side of him. The make-up that the two women are wearing is reminiscent of the make up that Gerard donned for some photo shoots and live performances in the 'Three Cheers' era. On the inside artwork for the album there is a small poster with all the characters as well as an abstract cartoon version of 'The Black Parade'. 

The cover for the single 'Welcome to the Black Parade'

The poster inside  the 'The Black Parade' album

The 'cartoon' depiction inside the 'The Black Parade' album

9. Mama

     Liza Minnelli sings on this track, depicting the 'Mother War character. This is yet another 'theatre' aspect to this album and this song has a lot of cabaret influence too. 

My Chemical Romance's 'Mama'

10. Sleep

     At the beginning of the song there is a tape recording of Gerard recounting night terrors he'd been having while sleeping in Paramour Mansion where the band had stayed for some time during the making of the album. He talks about how he would wake up in the middle of the night and it would feel like somebody’s hands were around his neck, choking him.

My Chemical Romance's 'Sleep'

11. Teenagers

     The video for 'Teenagers' is very similar to Billy's Talent's video for 'Red Flag' both aesthetically and narratively.  The video is also reminiscent of the video for 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' by Nirvana. The use of a high school setting, cheerleaders and students storming a stage has become a recognisable image because of Nirvana's hit video so it is very likely that My Chemical Romance were influenced by this. 

My Chemical Romance's video for 'Teenagers'

Billy Talent's video for 'Red Flag'

Nirvana's video for 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'

13. Famous Last Words

     The concept for the video was that it was a follow on from the 'Welcome to the Black Parade' video. In this video the Black Parade float that the band were performing on is set alight and burns throughout the video. The band are seen in the same marching band costumes but they are now alone and seem to be in a desperate state. The make-up that Gerard is wearing is similar to that worn by 'The Patient' character in the 'Welcome to the Black Parade' video. 

'The Black Parade is Dead!' was the second DVD released by My Chemical Romance. There are two performances on it, one being the last ever performance of 'The Black Parade' tour in Mexico. The performance marked the end, and 'the death' of 'The Black Parade' as a band. This is reminiscent of David Bowie killing off his alter ego 'Ziggy Stardust' in favour of creating a new persona as Aladdin Sane.  

Fourth album: 'Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys' (2010)

    The band stated that the creation of the album was initially influenced by 'the spirit of bands like The Stooges or MC5', but then became more influenced by artists such as The Chemical Brothers, Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub, Pulp, Manic Street Preachers, and David Bowie, especially the 'Diamond Dogs' album. 

David Bowie's 'Future Legend'

     The band also stated that there is a significant influence of the cinema on the album , of films like Blade Runner, A Clockwork Orange, The Warriors, Vanishing Point and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. The futuristic theme for the concept of the album is very close to the ideas in Blade Runner. 
     Another influence was that of Quentin Tarantino and the soundtrack for 'Reservoir Dogs'. Gerard Way commented that the album's heavily influenced by the Japanese cartoon Akira, a manga series set in a post-apocalyptic neo-Tokyo.

A scene from the 'Akira' manga series

     Though the band disputed that this was another concept album critics have said that it is and there is a definite high concept. The setting for the album is a fictional post-apocalyptic California in 2019 in which a few outsiders referred to as the 'Killjoys' are in conflict with a immoral corporation 'Better Living Industries' or 'BL/ind.' that want to control the population by selling medication to erase 'unwanted' emotion. Each band member had an alter ego: Party Poison, Fun Ghoul, Jet Star and Kobra Kid and they battle against the industries 'Draculoids' and exterminators such as 'Korse' played by Grant Morrison in the music videos. 
     The album was influenced by the 'Beerlight' books by author Steve Aylett, especially 'Slaughtermatic', which is namechecked on the album. The magazine 'Rolling Stone'  said that the frontman 'dyed his hair fiery red, and he's pissed at everyone: junkies, party girls, Hollywood and most of all himself, for getting so damn famous'. 
     A website for 'Better Living Industries' was set up after the release of the album featuring information about the corporation ( 

Track Listing:
  1. Look Alive, Sunshine
  2. Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)
  3. Bulletproof Heart
  4. SING
  5. Planetary (Go!)
  6. The Only Hope for Me is You
  7. Jet-Star and the Kobra Kid/Traffic Report
  8. Party Poison
  9. Save Yourself, I'll Hold Them Back
  10. S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W
  11. Summertime
  12. Destroya
  13. The Kids From Yesterday
  14. Goodnite, Dr. Death
  15. Vampire Money
Bonus Tracks
  1. We Don't Need Another Song About California
  2. Zero Percent
1. Look Alive, Sunshine / 2. Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)

    The song seems to present criticism of the consumerist culture through its lyrics which fits with the fact that this whole album was 'a reaction'
     The video to 'Na Na Na' begins with the 'Look Alive, Sunshine' introduction track which is voiced by Steve Montano also known as 'Steve, Righ?' of Mindless Self Indulgence. He plays a pirate radio station DJ 'Dr Death Defying'. It also stars Ricky Rebel as his sidekick 'Show Pony'.
     The video shows the 'Killjoys' being pursued by Korse of Better Living Industries and his vampire-masked henchmen called the Draculoids. The Killjoys have a young girl (Missile Kid) as one of their members who BL/ind is out to capture. At the end of the video, after a Mexican Standoff situation the Killjoys are defeated and Missile Kid is captured by Korse and the Draculoids.
There are many movie and TV references throughout the video with influence coming from 'Blade Runner', 'Easy Rider', 'Terminator 2: Judgement Day', 'Ultraviolet' and 'Mad Max'. 

My Chemical Romance's music video for 'Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)


Trailer for 'Blade Runner'

Trailer for 'Mad Max'

As well as references to popular culture there is also a reference to their previous album 'The Black Parade' at the 1:28 marker in the video you can see a half buried skeleton wearing a 'Black Parade' marching jacket.  
On the band's website they ran transmission videos as if BL/ind was a real company and these were the adverts. One of these features a character called 'MOUSEKAT', he is a 'Mickey Mouse' style cartoon propaganda character promoting the drugs used to keep humans under BL/ind's influence. 

There were other videos uploaded as if they were from 'Better Living Industries' which talk about the medication.

There were also videos in the style of surveillance camera recordings showing members of the 'Killjoys' and the 'Draculoids. 

3. Bulletproof Heart

The band stated that 'Jenny' mentioned within this song could be 'the missing girl' in The Killers song 'Jenny Was a Friend of Mine'. 

My Chemical Romance's 'Bulletproof Heart'

The Killers' 'Jenny Was a Friend of Mine'


     The video to this song picks up after the events of the 'Na Na Na' video and opens with My Chemical Romance as their alter-egos driving down a freeway tunnel. The band arrive in the album's dystopia known as Battery City and they stop in front of 'BL/ind' headquarters. The Killjoys arrive in the main security center and rescue Missile Kid who was previously kidknapped. When we see Korse storming down the hallways of the headquarters he rips a poster off the wall. These posters were released as merchandise.

7. Jet-Star and the Kobra Kid/Traffic Report

Track seven is a radio transmission from Dr. Death Defying stating that Kobra Kid and Jet Star have died.

15. Vampire Money

     The final track on the album is 'Vampire Money'. It was a reaction to the band being asked to do a song for the Twilight franchise. Gerard Way said that the reason the song was on the album was because 'there’s a lot of people chasing that fucking money. ‘Twilight?’ A lot of people around us were like, ‘please, for the love of God, do this fucking movie.’ But we’d moved on.'

'The Mad Gear and the Missile Kid' is a three track EP by the fictional alter ego of My Chemical Romance as an extension to 'Danger Days'.Guitarist Frank Iero told MTV that 'It's basically what the Killjoys are listening to in the car as they're having those gun battles'.
The cover artwork showcases the 'Dead Pegasus' logo that is featured in the 'Danger Days' videos, specifically featured on Gerard Way's 'Party Poison' jacket

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