In 2008, AC/DC went on a North American tour in support of their Black Ice album. Opening this tour was Northern Irish hard-rockers The Answer, a band that upon a Google search was hailed as “The Irish Led Zeppelin.” I downloaded some of their songs, most notably “Highwater or Hell” from their Never Too Late EP. They definitely did have a bunch of Zeppelin-isms, chunky guitar riffs, a yelping lead singer, and a powerhouse rhythm section. For someone who’d yet to get jaded from almost all opening bands, The Answer seemed like a godsend. Of the three big arena concerts I’d been to, The Answer was easily the best opening act I’d ever seen. I listened for The Answer for about a year after that show, because why wouldn’t I? Led Zeppelin was my favorite band, and there was little sign they were ever reuniting. Here I had a near perfect sound-alike that I also enjoyed. A few artists manage to stir up similar feelings: young bands like Wolfmother, Jet, Alter Bridge, as do some newer supergroups formed by older rockers: Black Country Communion, Adrenaline Mob, or Hellyeah. Artists that pay tribute to older music are nothing new, and some are actually somewhat innovative in their modern classic rock (see: The Darkness, Steel Panther), but now we have Greta Van Fleet: a breakout sensation that sounds a little too much like Led Zeppelin. Continue reading →
Before the film adaptation’s release, here’s some insight into Jeannette Walls’ modern classic The Glass Castle.
Spending another week on The New York Times’ Bestseller List and on it’s way to theatres, The Glass Castle continues to be a memoir that holds the public’s attention. If for some reason you managed to escape the media storm surrounding the movie, Glass Castle is the memoir of Jeannette Walls, currently a successful writer and journalist in New York, but once a girl living a rootless lifestyle with two erratic parents. Glass Castle has been out since 2005, but I find when a book holds the public’s attention for this long without fanfare and merchandise of midnight releases and chest tattoos, it’s important to ask why.Continue reading →
The date is October 4, 2009: Blink-182 has recently reunited. They’re finishing up a massive tour with Fall Out Boy opening for them at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Before FOB launch into their signature closer, “Saturday,” Pete Wentz declares, “This is the death of the emo haircut,” before handing his bass to a stagehand. Mark Hoppus enters the stage. Wentz sits down, and Hoppus shaves his head. Wentz jumps up at his cue, and screams his parts in “Saturday” like he always does. You could say this is the moment that everything went wrong. You could say Blink-182’s original breakup was the moment it all went wrong. You could also say Green Day’s American Idiot was, or even Dookie, or New Found Glory releasing “It’s Not Your Fault,” but for the sake of argument, Mark Hoppus shaving Pete Wentz’s black locks was the moment that ruined it all. Continue reading →
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.
I didn’t know the VMAs were last night. Between work, personal life, and general disinterest, it slipped under my radar. People like to harken back to the golden age of MTV as the 80’s and early 90’s. In Steven Hyden’s recent Your Favorite Band is Killing Me, he calls the 1992 VMAs the greatest and most interesting award show of all time, and maybe, he’s right. While 1992 saw icons like Michael Jackson, Guns N’ Roses, Nirvana, Elton John and so many more performing, this was two years before I was born. The 1992 VMAs are a folktale for me. The most iconic VMA incident in my lifetime is Kanye-Taylor in 2009, but the most important VMAs for me came in 2006.
In 2006, I was 12, and I’d just graduated from exclusively listening to Led Zeppelin and AC/DC to listening to pop radio, which at the time was dominated by alt-rock. The Killers, Fall Out Boy, and Panic! at the Disco were among the most popular names in music. Green Day was still living out the career-revival that American Idiot brought about. That same summer, I became enthralled by the heavy metal of the 80’s. Guns N’ Roses, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Metallica were all just as relevant and new to me as Shakira and Beyoncé. These star-crossed coincidences were all a large part of what made the 2006 VMAs such an event.
For starters, Jack Black hosted in 2006. No one is more over-the-top heavy metal than Tenacious D’s own Jables. Black opened the show with his own goofy musical number, and his vibrant enthusiasm radiates in everything he does. Jack Black doesn’t do anything half-assed. This is why a one-off performance of a friendship song by Tenacious D at this VMAs was incredible.
Even though the performances matter most, there were some interesting award recipients that year. In addition to the standard awards, MTV gave awards for music featured in videogames and a famed “Ringtone of the Year Award,” which was awarded to Fort Minor. Awards were won by people who would only be sparsely heard from again (James Blunt, Shakira and Chamillionaire). Beyoncé, who took home 8 awards this year, would only take home one for best R&B video. The Black Eyed Peas beat out Kanye. Avenged Sevenfold won best new artist over future Video Vanguard winner Rihanna. (Rihanna’s new metal logo may just be an attempt to make up for her lost first VMA). Panic! At the Disco won video of the year, without winning any other VMAs. The stage was also rushed during their acceptance by a man more notorious than Kanye, the mighty “Six.” Gnarls Barkley and The Red Hot Chili Peppers were both winners and have remained staples for music fans and the public at large. The All-American Rejects, AFI and Fall Out Boy were also award recipients, making it a great year to shop at Hot Topic and wear skinny jeans. Looking at the change in winners in the past ten years is bizarre, to say the least.
The performances are where VMAs are made, and in 2006, there were some damn good performances. Some of the best pop songs of the 2000’s came out in 2006. Shakira performing “Hips Don’t Lie” is just as electric as it must have been inside Radio City Music Hall. Beyoncé’s “Ring the Alarm” isn’t her best, but it’s much better than I remembered, including the brief dance break toward the end. Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back” performance is probably the best though. The first thought I had was how inescapable that song was, but then, I realized why “Sexy Back” was such an overplayed song. It’s because it’s fucking great. Timberlake’s choreography and sweet tenor is still a testament to what a great pop-artist JT is. It’s a timeless capsule into an early incarnation of the A-List giant.
Now, the 2006 VMAs were a great year for alt-rock. The Raconteurs were the house band, and they performed with the father of alternative music Lou Reed. OK Go did the treadmill routine on live TV, which is so much cooler with the additional angles and new choreography. Axl Rose introduced The Killers to close the show, screaming “Do you know where the fuck are you are?” The Killers are basically classic rock at this point, but “When You Were Young” was another inescapable hit. Brandon Flowers and company secured a spot that now is reserved for superstars of Taylor Swift, Rihanna or Beyoncé level fame. That’s how big alternative music was in 2006. This was also a year where over-the-top pop-punk was bigger than ever. My Chemical Romance had just released The Black Parade, and they played the title track at the pre-show from the top of Rockefeller Observation Deck. Seeing MCR play their biggest hit over the New York skyline with a children’s chorus wearing skull face paint showed that an album about death could be just as vibrant as a Fergie song. Fall Out Boy introduced Panic! at the Disco for the performance that my sixth grade self was looking forward to the most. Brendon Urie let his voice crack while trying to censor himself. Ryan Ross walked down the catwalk with Urie as circus dancers surrounded the emo Lennon-McCartney that would never exist past two albums.
For kids who liked guitar based rock music, these VMAs gave validation to kids who would spend every summer at Warped Tour. Panic! at the Disco and Fall Out Boy were both nominated for VMAs this year still, but there were no rock performers at the VMAs this year. Modern Baseball, some of the freshest faces in pop-punk, play Killers covers regularly. Fall Out Boy have returned with a vengeance as pop-artists, but the magic of From Under the Cork Tree is lost in the new music. P!ATD have grown into an interesting pop-act, with only Brendon Urie left. Seeing MCR sing “Welcome to the Black Parade” on a rooftop paved the way for middle schoolers who would grow up to love bands like The Wonder Years, PWR BTTM, or A Day to Remember. Even hearing James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” on a minimalist video set me up to listen to the like of Bon Iver. In 2006, the VMAs birthed a bunch of emo babies with heavy eyeliner and all. Some of us may have scoffed at Justin Timberlake in ’06, but we’ve found a place for him in our little-emo hearts. While we may have grown to appreciate and enjoy the Beyoncés and Christina Aguileras of the world, we’ll never forget My Chemical Romance welcoming all of New York to Black Parade.