Emo heroes reveal their inner Brian May
We got off to a bad start, me and MCR. ‘Teenagers’ was, by anyone’s standards, a bad Poison knock-off, but over the last couple of years my middle daughter’s incessant lobbying and prolonged exposure to The Black Parade started to take effect. A wonderfully snotty cover of ‘Desolation Row’ at the end of Watchmen provided the click.
Now, two years after a triumphant end-of-campaign Madison Square Garden show, and a subsequent slump period of disillusion and exhaustion, the band have rallied, and with the help of longtime producer Rob Cavallo, delivered an record that is (like 21st Century Breakdown, or indeed its predecessor) a teenage rebellion concept album that marries Bob Ezrin scale to FM precision engineering.
Much of the new record is a monument to bombast, the rest is shiny jet trash. There’s the heads-down first single ‘Na Na Na’, in which the band have amalgamated goth pomp with pop-punk and hair metal chrouses -- imagine Lords of the New Church produced by Jim Steinman with a few Matt Bellamy hammer-ons and Brian May solos thrown in for good measure. On its heels, ‘Bulletproof Heart’ is a steroidal anthem that suggests 30 Seconds To Mars meets the Crue. And is it just me, or do those layered guitars and harmonies sound suspiciously like Ratt?
MCR can be right old magpies, stealing bits of Blink 182, G’Day, Linkin Park and At The Drive-In and dressing it all up in rebel-without-a... (insert where applicable) pose. “These pigs are after me,” snarls singer Gerard Way. But ‘Summertime’ is a lovely mid-’80s moody pop song somewhere between The Cure and Smashing Pumpkins, and ‘S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W’, the album’s finest moment, a Queen-sized devotional with a power ballad chorus and straight-outta-1974 guitar break. ‘The Kids From Yesterday’ dresses Snow Patrol melodies in tight black pants and hitches them to a thudding robocop beat. ‘Sing’ is an unabashed house-lights-on anthem armed with an audacious chorus that comes off somewhere between rousing and anodyne.
Cavallo’s production is scrubbed and buffed throughout -- the separation of instruments sounds like it was performed by masked boffins in Area 51 -- and you can bet the mastering process entailed every atrocity ever logged in the Loudness Wars. But MCR can pen a damn good tune. The closing ‘Vampire Money’ is a scuzzy little thumper that reprises The Sweet’s ‘Ballroom Blitz’ intro and welds it to The Ramones, and is one of the best things they’ve ever done. Say what you like, but there isn’t a thing about this album that could be considered shoddy or slapdash. On the grounds of ambition alone, we commend them.
Key Track: ‘S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W’
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