Veritas Est Rock

Paul Karner

My Chemical Romance was probably one of the last bands one would expect to push for super-stardom. However, with the release of their most recent album “The Black Parade,” the previously angst-ridden, make-up-smeared pop-punk band has cast themselves in a new light.
Front man Gerard Way has been anything but bashful with his ambitions of making music that is Important (capital “I”), and joining the ranks of rock legends such as Queen and David Bowie.
Surprisingly, critics have been remarkably receptive of the new and improved MCR despite their seemingly wild ambitions. It’s less surprising, however, after listening to the record.
The 12 tracks on “The Black Parade” are literally overflowing with epic songwriting and throwback rock and roll that is screaming to be let loose in an arena somewhere. Just as it was impossible to envision songs from their previous release “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge” (2004, Reprise) anywhere but small clubs and possibly the Warped Tour stage, “Parade” is an album that was written for the big stage and a big audience.
The album – a concept album centered on a terminally ill cancer patient – traverses between swelling power ballads, morbid laments, and straight up pop punk. In the case of the title track, all of these happen back to back in the same song.
The intensity of Way’s biting vocals serves as the glue throughout the album, tying the album’s schizophrenic construction together into something unmistakably My Chemical Romance. With layers of auxiliary instruments – and even the guest appearance of Liza Minnelli – “The Black Parade” is a no-holds-barred effort by an underground band to lay claim to the big stage once and for all.
As a rock fan, I can admit I’ve wondered when our generation will find its answer to the Beatles, Bob Dylan, or even Queen. There seems to be an unconquerable disparity between the sold-out arenas of today and the rock legends of decades past that are perpetually inspiring artists since their time.
The point where “The Black Parade” fails me is where it fails to look forward. While the album is undoubtedly epic and a notable accomplishment for this band, it seems to gain much of its depth from the all-too-apparent references to rock albums from decades ago.
The album doesn’t so much blend the styles and sounds of their diverse influences, but rather juxtaposes them in a somewhat forced attempt to conjure up images of greatness merely by association. Simply put, “The Black Parade” seems to take the safest route to becoming rock superstars, and rock and roll has never made any great strides by artists treading lightly.