July 20th, in the year of our Lord 2016, an instrumental version of the intro to “Welcome to the Black Parade” was played in a video shared over a quarter of a million times on Facebook. Three years before, many of us mourned the loss of My Chemical Romance. The breakup message had been cold and unexpected, but when that simple video of a flag surfaced, our hope was restored. The next day, all faith was shattered, as the video only announced the release of a special tenth anniversary edition of MCR’s The Black Parade, which brings us here today. One month ago, the Living With Ghosts version of The Black Parade was officially released. And it has caused a lot of reflection on My Chemical Romance in the past month.
The story of My Chemical Romance’s formation is to Killjoys what the birth of Jesus is to Christians. Following the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, Gerard Way and Matt Pelissier began to view life differently and formed one of the great rock bands of the 21st Century. The band released the hardcore-emo I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love in 2002, but they didn’t see mainstream success until 2004’s Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, which featured scene-kid anthems “Helena” and “I’m Not Okay.”
On August 31st, 2006, the band officially welcomed us all to The Black Parade at the VMAs. The song showed a new classic-rock influence, and the presentation showed the world that MCR was ready for a fully-theatrical new album. The band would embark on a world tour akin to The Who’s Tommy tour where they played the album in full. Gerard Way would assume the role of “The Patient” every night, while taking the audience through the story and emotional cycle of the album. Since the album is really a reflection of life events seen in death, it was easy for pre-teens and teenagers to project themselves onto Way’s macabre ruminations on death.
Being a seventh grader during The Black Parade’s release, I obviously had a lot of feelings about it. The most shocking is probably: when the album first came out, I hated it. You see, I was a metal kid, and seeing guys dressed as a marching band in make-up couldn’t top the likes of Metallica. At worst, My Chemical Romance were the biggest abomination to music with their mediocre musicianship and dumb lyrics. At best, they were just a cheap Marilyn Manson rip-off. It wasn’t until I heard the song “Teenagers” in ninth grade that I began to reconsider my negative disposition of MCR. I was mesmerized by I Brought You My Bullets. Gerard Way’s scream in “House of Wolves” was incredibly heavy. At that point, I understood how great this band was.
The Black Parade has a song for every mood a weird teenager has. “I Don’t Love You” is the perfect song for when you find out your crush doesn’t like you back. “The Sharpest Lives” was the song I’d put on as I was getting ready to go out with my friends. It’s the cool kind of song that feels right to throw on a blazer as Way sings “Give me a shot to remember.” While I’ve grown more interested in Chuck Klosterman’s interpretation of “Teenagers,” it is the type of celebratory jam for when you feel like the biggest fucking loser in your school. “Famous Last Words” is easily a pre-cursor to a lot of the positive pop-punk that I would go on to love through college.
Reflecting on the album now, there’s only one clunker on it. “Sleep” is a lackluster track that even the b-sides trump. The title track is easily the most memorable, but “Cancer” is probably the most emotional. There are few closers as anthemic as “Famous Last Words,” and even the hidden-track “Blood” is incredibly fitting. While Danger Days served as the band’s swansong, The Black Parade’s legacy is most important to the band. It’s as close to a perfect album as the band ever had, from the power ballads of “I Don’t Love You” to the shredding on “Dead!”
Living with Ghosts has been out for a month, and it’s been a fun listen. The demoes are interesting, but they don’t really bring anything new to the beautiful Black Parade. “Not that Kind of Girl” sounds more like a blink-182 song. “All the Angels” is a skeleton of a song that could have worked within a larger work. If anything, this is more of a downer since it’s not something anyone really asked for. That being said, The Black Parade is this generation’s The Wall. Maybe in 30 years, we’ll get a massive Black Parade reunion tour. For now, we’ll carry on.