My Chemical Romance is not typically the kind of band I’m inclined to listen to – they are a little too emo-tastic for my taste. They are, however, definitely the kind of band my sister is inclined to listen to. In October 2006 when they released The Black Parade, it became one of the few anchors that tethered my sister’s emotional well-being after the passing of our mother that September.
Looking forward to the album helped her get through the sorrow – something music absolutely has the power to do in your teenage years (and beyond). From the moment the album first arrived, there really wasn’t a part of the day where you didn’t stand a good chance of hearing it blaring from behind some closed door in our home, as she’d come to live with us. Fittingly, as it was what helped her work through some of her emotions after losing our mom to cancer, the album was basically a “rock-opera” about a cancer patient.
Talk about resonance and a reason for her to listen (and listen) to it.
Which is how the band made its way into my vocabulary and how the music of The Black Parade slowly hammered itself a space inside my head. On the surface, I justified it as trying to find a common ground that my sister and I could communicate about after both our lives had inextricably changed – hers more so as she’d not only lost her sole-remaining parent but also had moved to an entirely different state from where she’d grown up. The reality of it of course is that there’s only so many hundred times you can hear an album before it starts to grow on you and burrow into your subconscious – especially, if it’s a good one.
The Black Parade, by the way, is good.
Fast-forward 10 years and the band – no longer “together” as a performing and recording entity – are re-releasing the album in celebration of its 10th anniversary, and to sweeten the pot they’re including a second album containing demos and outtakes from the The Black Parade sessions. Included are early live takes on “Kill All Your Friends,” “My Way Home Is Through You,” “Mama,” two slightly different versions of “House of Wolves” and – my personal favorite – a demo for a song named “The Five of Us Are Dying” which can easily be seen as a piece of work that eventually shapes itself into “Welcome to the Black Parade” from the album proper.
If you’re not a fan of the band or at least a fan of this album, I’m not quite sure that these unreleased songs – solid though they may be – will be a “must buy” for the casual music fan. If you are a fan and enjoyed the original album, then you are in for a definite treat. While it doesn’t completely open up the process of what it was like to write and record the album, it does at least give a peak through the door so that you can see Gerard Way and company moving behind the curtain as the great and powerful Oz that is MCR thunders on your stereo.
In the end, if you’re a fan already, you’re going to want this. Period. If you’re not a fan of the band but want to experience one of the more potent albums to come from the wave of bands labeled as “emo” over the last decade, then you should definitely consider this or at least pick up a regular copy of the album itself.
Some albums catch you at vulnerable times in your life and seem to be there for you to lean on and draw comfort from. For me, growing up it was “hair metal” and the sounds and ideas of people having lives so blindingly different from what I was experiencing in small town Louisiana that fueled my imagination. For my sister – and me again in many ways – My Chemical Romance tapped into the raw emotion of dealing with illness and how you feel helpless despite people telling you how proud of you they are for “fighting” through it.
It’s a powerful little album and I’m glad it’s getting an anniversary release so that people can take a closer look at the zeitgeist that MCR captured 10 years ago.