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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

When I was a young boy

Despite all the coverage My Chemical Romance has received in the last few years, I've only heard a couple of their songs. I've heard "I'm Not OK (I Promise)" a few times due to the fact that it's on a free DVD I received with a magazine. I've heard "Helena" only once -- it came on at a local bar Jason and I frequent. Had Jason not said that it was My Chemical Romance, I would have never noticed.

The band's third album, The Black Parade, arrives in stores today. Though a trip to the record store is on the schedule for today, I won't be picking this one up. I'll definitely be picking up Sparta's Threes and hope that I can find Converge's No Heroes with relative ease, but why no love for My Chem? Simply, I don't really get a charge out of these guys. But there's more to this. If I was younger and didn't know a lot about what all is really out there in the music world, I'd be all over this record.

A few weeks ago, my friend Trevor posted a blog about the band's video for "Welcome to the Black Parade." He wondered if the video was the result of Smashing Pumpkins' "Tonight, Tonight" plus Green Day's "American Idiot" minus You Can't Do That On Television. I wonder if the equation is more like Smashing Pumpkins' "Bullet with Butterfly Wings" plus the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band movie plus a half-hearted reach for the grandiose heights last seen by Queen in the mid-'70s. I can't knock the band for trying hard to go further than their previous efforts, but I'm still not bowled over.

Every time I watch the "Welcome to the Black Parade" video, I think about how excited I was when was in high school watching the "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" video on MTV. Something about a video with people rolling in dirt and mud around the band was awesome to me. Plus, that quiet-to-scream part in the bridge section sweetened the deal. While I still like the band, I definitely don't pull out their stuff on a regular basis. Somehow I get the feeling that will be the fate My Chemical Romance will have with their teenage fans in ten years.

Taking a listen to The Black Parade, I hear overtones of mid-'70s Queen and Wall-era Pink Floyd with running, ascending guitar lines, big drums and big choruses. Still, I'd rather listen to songs like "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "In the Flesh?" rather than "Welcome to the Black Parade." This is not out of spite, but the feeling I get when I hear the former is stronger. I have a good ten years of hearing those songs over and over again and I still like them. I feel rather detached from what My Chem is trying to do here. Maybe they're trying to introduce teenagers to the power of Queen and Pink Floyd by doing their own version. Well, as long as there is classic rock radio and the records stay in print, the popularity of albums like A Night at the Opera and The Wall will remain intact. I don't think these records need any extra push, but they can't be hurt by a modern band channeling them.

I'm not alone here in this assessment. I came across a quote in a SOMB thread from UselessRocker:
I don't think the guys in My Chemical Romance would be surprised or disappointed in a 27 year-old dude not getting them. Queen had pretty amazing range - they could be campy as hell, but pull off real emotion. You don't get bands that can pull off "Somebody to Love" and "Flash" every day.

Yet a number of people my age find My Chemical Romance appealing. Maybe because it's a throwback to the epic nature of '70s arena rock. But given the choice of either listening to The Black Parade or Queen's Greatest Hits, I gotta go with the latter. Queen had the chops, but they could write songs that tugged at your heart even with some humor thrown in. Sure, a song like "Bohemian Rhapsody" is bombastic, but it's definitely not some bloated, contrived little tale directed at the mall-goth crowd. As simple as a song like "We Are the Champions" is, I still get chills when I hear it. Nevermind all the football games I've been to that play the song, I still want to get up and cheer when I hear it.

With My Chemical Romance, I feel like they're taking themselves way too seriously. If you're this angst-filled teenager that takes yourself way too seriously, this is perfect. Somehow I'm now realizing that a 27-year-old was probably saying the same thing when I was going ga-ga for Smashing Pumpkins in '96.

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