Deep Album Cuts Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
The news came down the pike yesterday that My Chemical Romance has finally decided to break up. It's the kind of thing where I can't say I expected it, but it seems obvious in retrospect -- they just finished releasing Conventional Weapons, a 10-song series of singles collecting all the songs they discarded in the making of their last proper album, 2010's Danger Days, the only album they've released in the last 6 years. I guess they weren't into it anymore. They were awesome, though; an unlikely mainstream face of the amorphous subgenre of 'emo' who were meaner, funnier and catchier than almost any other band that ever got tagged with that word. They were ridiculous, but on purpose, and with purpose.
The first three installments in this series (Brandy, Whitney Houston, and Madonna) all focused on female solo artists who dominated the singles charts -- the kinds of artists who can sell millions of albums, have huge adoring fanbases, and have their songs known by practically everyone on earth, but still aren't taken seriously as 'album artists' by many critics and music fans, possibly because they're women or don't play instruments or some nonsense like that. My Chemical Romance, however, are a different breed: a platinum rock band who managed to be often reviled or dismissed by so-called serious music listeners even when they did make cohesive album-length statements in which they wrote all the songs and played all the instruments.
MCR are known far better for their singles (and videos) than for their albums, and perhaps known better for their image and aesthetic than all of the above. And I can't deny that they were an ace singles band -- I declared "Helena" the greatest rock single of the 2000s, and I still stand by that. But they've got a lot of great songs that never got on the radio, and since they're often pretty short, I was able to fit a lot them in under my 80-minute cap. Here's the Spotify playlist:
Deep Album Cuts Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
1. Vampire Money
2. Give 'Em Hell, Kid
3. House of Wolves
5. Cemetery Drive
6. Save Yourself, I'll Hold Them Back
7. Our Lady Of Sorrows
8. You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us In Prison
9. Kill All your Friends
11. Desert Song
12. It's Not A Fashion Statement It's A Deathwish
13. Party Poison
15. Boy Division
16. I Never Told You What I Do For A Living
18. My Way Home Is Through You
19. Skylines And Turnstiles
20. Bury Me In Black
21. To The End
22. The End.
Tracks 7 and 19 from I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love (2002)
Tracks 2, 5, 8, 12, 16 and 21 from Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge (2004)
Tracks 11 and 20 from Life On The Murder Scene (2006)
Tracks 3, 10, 14, 22 and 23 from The Black Parade (2006)
Tracks 9 and 18 from The Black Parade: The B-Sides (2009)
Tracks 1, 6, 13 and 17 from Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys (2010)
Tracks 4 and 15 from Conventional Weapons (2013)
I will note that this collection differs somewhat from previous Deep Album Cuts mixes that only drew from proper albums and soundtrack albums that were mostly or entirely performed by the artist -- MCR only had four full-length studio efforts, which is on the low end of what I'd consider a good-sized discography to explore for one of these mixes. So I included things from their various stopgap releases that collected b-sides and outtakes. Their first album, the 2002 indie debut I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, isn't on Spotify, and I'm not as familiar with it as the later albums, so there's only a couple tracks from it on the 'true' version of the playlist, and none on the one you can click and listen to. Of course, I can justify that by saying these mixes are about the lesser known songs that appeared alongside the hits, so I'm ultimately OK only focusing on the era in which they had mainstream hits.
The part of MCR's career I've always had trouble with is The Black Parade -- it was pretty much the only album I've ever written a post on this blog just about anticipating, but I ended up panning the album soon after, and I came to really resent "Welcome To The Black Parade," especially once it became pretty much their biggest hit. It was fun to pick through it and find the songs I do like, though, which actually function well as a change of pace from the faster, funnier Three Cheers and Danger Days that I think of as the My Chemical Romance I love most. Those Black Parade b-sides are really fantastic, though, like that stuff more than most of what's on the album.
The bittersweet thing about My Chemical Romance is the feeling of squandered potential. It feels like so many mainstream rock bands over the last decade or two have had such predictable, brief 3-album arcs: the breakthrough, the peak, and the commercial disappointment, after which comes either a breakup or a slow fade into cult/indie level popularity. The list of bands in that time period that have enjoyed a really sustained, uninterrupted run of success is pitifully short and not especially inspiring (Linkin Park, Nickelback, Coldplay). My Chemical Romance was one of the few bands that really got me excited about a band going platinum with songs and videos I found genuinely great, and it feels like the long breaks between albums and kind of anxious identity crisis the band seemed to grapple with from there on really squandered what could've been a much longer, more productive career. But I'm still pretty happy with the catalog they left behind.