Last year, Gerard Way, front man for Belleville-bred band My Chemical Romance, predicted that their next album would be a back-to-basics record: no big concept, no crazy costumes, no make-up. In an interview with NME magazine, Way said, "I think (the next album) will definitely be stripped down. I think the band misses being a rock band."
Last month, My Chem released its latest album, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. If you couldn't tell by its title, Danger Days, an outrageous rock record epic set in a futuristic post-apocalypse California, is anything but stripped down. So what happened in the interim?
Initially, the band hit the recording studio with the purest of intentions – a return to their punk roots, creating something raw, edgy and minimally produced. But straining under the pressure of too many self-imposed restrictions, the band felt the music was dead. They recorded an entire album before bravely deciding to scrap the project.
It wasn't until they regrouped at the home studio of Rob Cavallo, the producer of their previous album, The Black Parade, that they began to find the life in their music again. It all started with the amusingly titled single, "Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)", an explosive anthem about art as a weapon, which refueled the band's energy and propelled them to complete Danger Days.
The new album is a huge departure from The Black Parade, a rock opera on the cheery subject of death and cancer. At each performance, My Chem donned black uniforms and Gerard portrayed the sickly "Patient". After two years of touring the morbid show, they were exhausted. As rhythm guitarist Frank Iero explained in an interview, "The one thing we kept saying is: we've got to bring the color back."
And that's just what they did. Danger Days is so colorfully exuberant, you might well mistake it for a Cirque du Soleil performer, if it weren't for the modicum of angst thrown in for good measure. Conceptually, the storyline follows the adventures of The Fabulous Killjoys (AKA My Chem) as they battle the bloodthirsty draculoids of Better Living Industries and their evil leader, Korse. The highly imaginative premise has the odd logic of a dream and is accompanied by pirate radio DJ, Dr. Death Defying, whose poetry is so confounding and odd it's as if he's speaking a foreign language in English.
The album is musically eclectic, featuring the pop-infused "Bulletproof Heart" alongside dance mix "Planetary (GO)". Perhaps their most poignant song, "The Kids of Yesterday", deals with the band's maturation. The sense of lost youth is captured in lyrics like "When we were young we used to say/ That you only hear the music when your heart begins to break/ Now we are the kids from yesterday." The band members are acknowledging their adulthood, fittingly, as most of them have recently gotten married and/or made babies.
Danger Days is reminiscent of Green Day's rock musical American Idiot, especially when they play the national anthem, and also incorporate Muse-like theatrics – two bands they have toured with in the past. But of course, My Chemical Romance brings something all their very own to the table too.
They kick off "The World Contamination Tour" April 2011 in Portland, OR.