My Chemical Romance's Danger Days: Track By Track Review
, November 16th, 2010 11:24
With My Chemical Romance previewing their album online tonight, we give Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys the track-by-track treatment...
Look Alive, Sunshine
Reminiscent of the crackling radio transmission that launches Queens Of The Stone Age's Songs For The Deaf, this is a pirate message from the album's host, Dr. Death Defying. Much of what he says here is seemingly gibberish - "Louder than God's revolver", "The aftermath is secondary" and so forth - but intentionally so; according to Gerard Way, his dialogue was heavily inspired by the bizarre and impenetrable language of Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange. It works, too, creating a fitting sense of disorientation to the world you're about to be immersed in over the following tracks…
Na Na Na
Doubtless, you've heard this one already: the album's first single, and the first sure-fire sign that we're in drastically different territory to that traversed in The Black Parade. If their previous album was grand in scope - verging on the melodramatic and operatic at times - then this is pared down, balls-out garage rock, with the Queen influences shifted in favour of dirty and scuzzy Ramones-like riffs. Big, dumb and full of fun ("Give me drugs, give me drugs" yelps Way, tongue placed firmly-in-cheek), its giddy excitement was only marred for me when, assuming all the employees at Warner Music had skipped off to lunch, I started to sing along and noticed someone using the photocopier and staring at me with an expression on their face that managed to encompass both fear and incredulity.
As was discussed in our interview with the band yesterday, rebellion and defiance are two of the most constant themes to Danger Days. 'Bulletproof Heart' kickstarts the concept of MCR (or 'The Fabulous Killjoys') as intergalactic freedom-fighters into overdrive, starting with a glittering space-age score that evokes images of darkened futuristic cityscapes before giving way to another sleek and shiny riff.
The album's second single, and the recipient of a remarkable mid-song metamorphosis. The first verse is built around thudding drums, some graceful ivory-tinkling and gently fizzing corkscrews of the guitar…. until someone spots the opportunity to wreak some havoc and jams their hand down on a Big Red Button marked 'Bombast'. What follows is the mother of all sing-along choruses and a bass line so cavernous you could hollow it around and take shelter in it, complete with the anthemic chorus of: "Sing it for the boys, sing it for the girls… Sing it for the world."
Fuck! Upper case letters! An exclamation mark! A whirring red-alert siren that bulldozes its way through the track! The excrement is, quite evidently, about to make contact with the ventilation device. Rather than a signal of distress, though, 'Planetary (GO!)' is a booming beacon of hope buoyed by crunching guitars and boosted by proclamations of immortality such as "I can't slow down" and "I'm undefeatable".
The Only Hope For Me Is You
A bit of a breather, now, as synthesisers blur in and out of focus, punctuated with flashes of guitar. Not many love songs contain a rather excellent 'Whoosh' sound affect that sounds like the Death Star passing directly over your head, but still, a love song this certainly is - a heart-on-sleeve missive in which Way earnestly tells the object of his desire : "The only hope for me is you".
Jet Star And The Kobra Kid/Traffic Report
Dr D is back with an update on the traffic, although it's not like any traffic report you're likely to hear this year: I certainly can't recall any reports of tailbacks on the M25 coming with advice such as "Keep your gun close" and "Die with your mask on if you have to".
Alas, this is the most straightforward track on the album: a relatively traditional blast of pop-punk which is satisfying enough, but after 'Traffic Report', I was hoping for some sort of Kraftwerk-in-space hybrid - an intergalactic 'Autobahn', if you will. Having said that, it does boast some delightfully dirty guitar riffs and one of the year's finest call-to-arms choruses: "This ain't a party / Get off the dancefloor / You wanna get down / I wanna gang war." Built from the remnants of 'Death Before Disco', which has been floating around the internet for some time.
Save Yourself, I'll Hold Them Back
Ah, this is more like it. Opening with a howling wind blowing through some deserted space-desert and with the pinging of soft lazers ricocheting in the background, this takes every existing preconception of My Chemical Romance that you have - morbid, maudlin and death-obsessed - and rips them into tiny shreds. Indeed, it seems as if MCR are directly writing against that image, with lines such as "This ain't a room full of suicides" and "We can live forever, if you have the time". One of the most frustrating things is that hordes of close-minded indie-boys will probably turn their noses up at this album for fear that if they like it they'll immediately start lactating, but there's actually more testosterone here than in the whole of Bloc Party's back catalogue.
Even if you don't smoke, you're going to need start carrying a lighter with you if you go and see My Chemical Romance live so you can hold it aloft during this one. Turning the sci-fi motif into something more ethereal and romantic (with imagery such as "Blow a kiss at the methane skies"), this is pop music plain and simple. Cite this, along with 'Scarecrow On A Killer Slant' by Liars, as the ultimate proof that songs about crudely-shaped mannequins made out of straw can be utterly brilliant (Yes, we know neither are literally about scarecrows).
Danger Days may be less Anglophillic than The Black Parade, but 'Summertime' is curiously reminiscent of Suede; and, more specifically, 'The Wild Ones' from Dog Man Star, due to Way's most tender vocal yet and a chorus that soars and dips above the melody line. Even his delivery of "You can run away with me… any time you want", with its affected pause, brings to mind Anderson's: "We can be the wild ones… running with the dogs today".
If you were worried that things were going to take a turn for the slushy and sentimental, then fear ye not. Giant crashes, pounding drums and sneering vocals blow the romanticism away, here, in some sort of tribal ritualistic-cleansing as Way turns his back on love and fledges himself fully towards his forthcoming battle: "I don't believe in God, I don't believe in love/ I don't believe in you, I just believe in the enemy". A paranoid thrash of a tune.
The Kids From Yesterday
This could easily have been lost in the slipstream of 'DESTROYA', but this is a great stomp in the vain of Depeche Mode that combines crooned vocals and Technicolor melodies to devastating effect.
Goodnite, Dr. Death
It's a sign off from our radio host, who leaves us with a cheery warning: "That big ball of radiation we call the Sun will burst you into flames if you stay in one place too long - that is, if the static don't get you first". Is that this album's message in a microcosm? Fly close to the Sun, like Icarus, and risk getting burned - but do nothing and you're doomed anyway? While hip-hop skits can become intrusive, the segments with Dr. D do a fine job in framing the album; in fact, I'd go further than that and wager that BBC 6 Music would have been saved a lot quicker if he'd been on the roster. This ends, quite splendidly, with the strains of 'The Star Spangled Banner'.
If we learnt anything from Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, it's that referencing each other mid-song tends to be rather naff, as evidenced on their creepy dialogue on 'The Girl Is Mine'. Nonetheless, there's something inexplicably charming about the way the band name check each other before ripping into their swansong here. This is less experimental than a lot of the previous material, but still a fitting way to end - another brilliantly daft riff that ends in an all-consuming crescendo. A victorious signing off to what's a remarkable reinvention, then, which leaves us in taking shelter in the ruins of a brutally triumphant revolution…
Danger Days will be released on November 22