My Chemical Romance - Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

My Chemical Romance - Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys

by Rich Morris Rating:4 Release Date:2010-11-22

Ok, full disclosure: I'm not a MCR fan. As far as I understand it, this is a band which makes music exclusively for teenage emos who look like one of the puppets from Fraggle Rock given a goth make-over. I can't honestly say I've given them much time before, but I'm vaguely aware of them being a massively successful band and, of course, the weaker of my brain's neurons failed to ignore the typically hysterical Daily Mail headline from a few years ago which splashed a picture of the goth girl from Hollyoaks across the pages and wittered about MCR being responsible for a generation of self-harming suicide babies. So you can probably see why I, who as a teenager committed every Smiths' lyric to memory, singularly failed to see MCR's appeal. However, keeping a recent NME cover and general murmurings of praise from the Guardian in mind, I decided to give their fourth album, the ludicrously named Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, a cautious listen.

It starts, somewhat unexpectedly, with what sounds like a hip hop radio DJ delivering a doom-laden wakeup call over curdled synth and white noise. This brief intro is called 'Look Alive, Sunshine' and, with its lines about being "louder than God's revolver and twice as shiny", contains the first of many, many gun references. It's a suitably ominous, state-of-the-nation address for what will basically turn out to be Green Day's American Idiot for younger brothers and sisters. There are another two similar announcements at the middle and end of the album, obviously designed to tip the hat to classic gang warfare film The Warriors. This very loosely ties the record together thematically and makes me like MCR a little more than I would otherwise. Mainly, however, it makes me want to re-watch The Warriors. One can only hope it will lead some MCR fans to check out what may very well be the greatest film ever made.

The staggeringly titled single 'Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)' is punk in that brash, utterly obvious way which American rock acts have spent the last decade perfecting. It's followed by 'Bulletproof Heart' which, as the title suggests, revolves entirely around gun/bullet/'going down in a blaze of glory' imagery. Later on, 'Save Yourself, I'll Hold Them Back' retreads the exact same tropes. In fact, with its crunching monster riffs and 'death or glory' lyrics it might as well be the same song. What with gun-related teenage deaths being so high in the US, you have to question MCR's taste levels a little here but, then again, most great American music , from Guns n' Roses to NWA, relies on glorying the morally dubious. Underneath the radio-friendly bombast, there's a Springsteen-esque desperation, a mall rat desire for escape at all costs which is surely completely phoney and exploitative coming from these rich and successful young men. But, again, this isn't a particularly new contradiction, even if the following track, the excremental rock ballad 'SING', exhorts someone to "sing it from the heart".

MCR seem to be at their best when they shake free the need to fulfil their audience's perception of them as super-serious young men. 'Planetary (GO!)' is a funny, squelchy pop-punk tune which is more about the sheer joy of bouncing around then the crushing existential angst of being a bored teen from a comfortably well-off family. It's sure to set mosh pits alight and should be a single. Similarly, 'Party Poison' starts with a yelling Japanese girl and then evolves into the kind of itchy, convulsing garage rock number The Hives knock out in their sleep. These are the album's best, least complicated moments.

Elsewhere, every song reaches for an unsustainable peak of emotion which is halfway between alienated rage and anthemic, American dream affirmation. It's a little confusing to an outsider but it seems this is MCR great triumph: possibly more than any band before them, they've turned being an insular loser into an achievement of self-realisation. Their music lacks the nihilistic hunger of G n' R, the genuine horror at looming adulthood and responsibility that Nirvana tapped into, the fetishistic glorification of perversity that was Marilyn Manson's stock-in-trade. Instead, MCR present and reflect a world of forever-teens, undisturbed by real life complications like jobs, school or adult relationships, unhindered from focussing completely on their creamy, pampered misery. Only 'The Kids from Yesterday' acknowledges that such a state can't last but fails to identify what such relentlessly solipsistic beings might usefully evolve into. The message seems to be: die young because - trust us successful rock stars with our shameless brand iconography -, the adulthood you have no experience of is a lousy and hollow thing and you don't want it.

This leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. MCR's view of the modern world is staunchly apolitical, unengaged or unconcerned with reality at a fundamental level. Several tracks make reference to "pigs" and other authority figures, and in this respect Danger Days... doesn't differ greatly from the vicarious thrill provided to suburban teens by macho, hyper-aggressive hip hop stars such as 50 Cent. On the other hand, the relentlessly thick 'Fiddy' can at least lay claim to having experienced gang culture and extreme poverty firsthand; MCR's dystopian world-view is pure cartoon but delivered with so much seriousness it's like they've mistaken a Tom and Jerry caper for The Wire.

However, MCR do clearly provide some solace, support and plain old rock 'n' roll excitement to adolescents the world over, many of whom no doubt encounter genuine problems like depression and parental divorce. Who am I to judge where they get their affirmation from? No doubt most of them will grow out of it the same way I grew out of listening to 'I Know It's Over' on repeat. In a decade's time, who's to say MCR won't be in a similar position to Take That, bringing a little teenage joy to grown up mums and dads? There's more than a little of the boy band hanging around this group, after all. Basically, the bottom line could be this: would you rather kids were listening to MCR or JLS?

Overall Rating (0)

0 out of 5 stars
  • Of course it's pure cartoon (actually comic...Gerard Way is a graphic novel writer after all). This is a concept album with a entire story and fictional future and the whole thing is a set of set piece for the band to discuss their feelings about the music industry and how difficult it is to be both successful and creative the way things are. The "guns" aren't guns and the "pigs" aren't cops. Did you think that Morrissey was talking about a literal club in "How Soon Is Now?" or did you catch it for the metaphor it was.... same thing going on here (just a bigger metaphor). Also, the MCR guys are in their early 30's and have kids of their own and most of their fan base is in the same age group.... not exactly kiddie music for kids.

    It's OK to not like something (hey it didn't float your boat, I personally disliked the smiths) and being honest about your personal feelings is a nice touch but at least put in the work of knowing your subject when writing the review.

  • Hello Jeremy

    1. Thank you for damning my review with faint praise. However, I did do my research and was aware that Way is a graphic novel writer. The word 'cartoon' was not chosen to reflect his work in this field but my impression of the depth of the album's subject matter.

    2. Yes I do think the club in 'How Soon is Now?' is a literal club. But then, lyrics are open to interpretation and these inferences are ours to make. For someone who doesn't like The Smiths you've obviously given their songs some thought. Maybe you should give them another try? In my opinion, if a lyric is genuinely good it should stand up to whatever interpretation you chose to throw at it. The lyrics on this album simply don't. They are lazy and repetitive.

    3. I would consider early 30s to still be young, wouldn't you? I hope so otherwise I'm nearing middle age!

    4. "It's OK to not like something". Hey, thanks. May I return the compliment by saying it's ok to go off half-cocked when commenting on a review as well.

    Ciao

  • Wasn't trying to damn your review with faint praise, I just didn't want to only say what I didn't like about the review...but I don't like my last sentence on rereading it, not sure how I would rephrase it but I would. I felt like some of your critiques missed the point of the album (which in and of itself does show one weakness in the album as a whole... were you to say that kids listening to the album would be unlikely to get the imagery.... well then I would agree, I'm just not very sure if they are the audience for this).

    I wouldn't say that early 30's is "old" but being in my early 30s as well I'm not sure I'd call it young either. Perhaps some of the issue here is that I can personally connect with the music because I'm in a similar place to the artists when they are writing it (probably the same reason why the Smiths never connected deeply with me, wrong place wrong time). It's all subjective, which was what I was trying to say I think, that it's understandable to not particularly like an album but that I felt that your critique missed. Specifically I thought that comparing them to 'fiddy' and the fact that they can't claim first hand xp is missing the fact that they are using the camp to talk about things they are serious about. They just aren't stopping to wink at the camera...well not until Vampire Money at least.

  • I don't get MCR either and I don't think it has anything to do with my age. I would probably hate them more had they been around in my twenties. To me they are just entry level rock music for teenagers. On the one hand this isn't bad as it opens kids up to something other than X Factor. Four years to make that album though is pretty bad, it has nothing special going on and is the sort of thing most bands could knock out in their sleep. I'm guessing they spent 3 years 6 months worrying how to follow the Black Parade. To say their fan base are in their 30s is absolute nonsense. Their fans are teenagers, mainly girls and the only 30 year old men that listen to this are those that are drawn to it through the comic book connection. I think 4/10 is being kind.