As “Welcome To The Black Parade” transitions into its full bodied beast of a midsection, we’re reminded of the spirit My Chemical Romance inhabited prior to 2006. A layer of fuzz lowers, shrouding the previously crystal clear Gerard Way vocals, turning the guitar work back to its garage roots. And while this certainly wasn’t the most aggressive moment on the now, 10-year-old record, it’s perhaps the most illuminating, the most critical.
The Black Parade wasn’t a huge leap for a previously theatrical band, an outfit rising considerably in power as a result of the ultra-goth, dancing death of “Helena.” Hell, they probably wore less black than Three Cheers days upon the transition to the title outfit. The VMA pre-show debut of “Welcome” is a wee bit ridiculous now 1, but a major coup for scene kids (like myself) in 2006, a track debut on a huge stage for a band that previously followed The Starting Line at Warped Tour (in black, bulletproof vests). Intro’d by Gideon Yago, the minute-plus long intro finds the band marching down New York City streets with parade in tow, complete with slow motion tough guy shots and perhaps the most dramatic elevator ride in the history of elevator rides.
But the dramatics (I mean…god damn, look at that face in the back right) made the grounding, the midsection presentation of the band’s core, of great importance. No longer do you have a group working against form, sacrificing all in the call for greater ambition. Instead, it’s one using the notion of the concept record to elevate individual contributions, from Way’s now obvious narrative eye, to Ray Toro’s willingness to counter a record about death with just about the brightest guitar tones known to man. You can hear your old MCR in that hook, and in essence, it’s a near perfect title track for the respective aims. It wasn’t a nailing of the narrative turning point we should be impressed with — they had such a strong grasp of theme, more so than any of their contemporaries — it was the dodging of the “goth Queen” status, it was the truthful reclaim of a core unharmed by time, money and the biggest of all third album ideas: (alleged) complete transformation.
The claim and desire, as according to a 2006 Billboard preview, to go so far as to attribute the record to this newly formed entity, was just that, a claim and desire. Something much more ambitious was going on under the surface: the retention of just enough MCR to introduce their emo, hardcore and “somewhere in between” pockets of fandom to theater. Copycat status would have landed them in Pretty Odd camp, more compare than contrast. Instead, their goal of “timeless” remains achievable 10 years later; the title track and album an expansion of theatricality in rock music, an expansion anchored by their originality of overwhelming, at times overdramatic, aggressiveness.
In full album form, you have 4 tracks of lead-up, “Death!” hitting hard enough to quell any fear. But in that live, high-wire adoption of a “radical” new look, any delay of true intention carries risk. Way spends much of the record executing the idea of vivid memories overtaking oneself in dying days, the father-son marching band moment on display. When I think back to the VMA moment, I forget the heavily produced intro, the kids in skull costumes. Instead, my memories relate to a thrill, a unidentified outer shell, and that second skin housing a familiar energy.
A group brimming with ambition can often times lose themselves in the pursuit of such, a distrust of their foundation clouding the next natural, or organic, step. But in the most important song of their career, in perhaps the biggest stage they’d be afforded (they did play “Helena” in the actual VMAs prior, so it’s up for debate), My Chemical Romance practiced the most important of attributes: control.