Now that the dust has settled on My Chemical Romance’s out of the blue breakup and everyone has gotten over it (more or less), it’s time for the solo projects to take the fore in each member’s life, and naturally, it’s erstwhile frontman Gerard Way’s new music that has gained the most anticipation. From his initial cryptic messages claiming that he was recording again, right up to his proper debut shows at the Reading and Leeds Festivals less than a month before this album’s release, the level of excitement that Hesitant Alien has garnered has hardly let up at all. Fortunately, it’s been well justified.
It almost seems insultingly obvious to state that the direction that Gerard has decided to take on Hesitant Alien is a million miles away from his previous outfit. Gone are My Chemical Romance’s skyscraping bombast and stadium-filling sensibilities, and in their place are fuzzy, distorted guitars and heavily buried vocals. There’s a lot of homage paid to British music on the album, especially indie rock and Britpop; Millions and No Shows have a real scuzzy, lo-fi feel to them not unlike Supergrass at points, while the swaggering riffs and squalling solo of Get The Gang Together are very reminiscent of Kasabian, and Drugstore Perfume goes down a shoegazing, almost psychedelic route. It’s a far more down to earth prospect than My Chemical Romance ever were, and it’s all pulled off rather well. In fact, the only time when Hesitant Alien strays even vaguely close to that territory is during Juarez, only because it somewhat mirrors the controlled chaos of the band’s earlier outputs.
The fact of the matter is, die hard My Chemical Romance fans may turn their noses up at this album. It’s nothing like his old work, but what it is, is Gerard wearing his influences on his sleeve for the first time, and actually pulling off emulating them. The Bowie-esque aesthetic image he’s adopted in recent times is only the beginning; his barked vocals become buried beneath layers of distortion (occasionally under too many as shown at times on Zero Zero) which adds a real authentic feel, akin to the bands that ruled during the era of reference.
Missteps come in the form of the tracks that bookend the album; sluggish opener Bureau lacks the vitality of the rest of the album, while closing track Maya The Psychic feels unconvincing in its fusion of straight-up rock and indie, with the end product being too messy to be truly likeable. Foibles aside though, Hesitant Alien feels like a real evolution for Gerard. Though it won’t immediately land him back in the enormo-venues that he regularly conquered previously, there’s a clear feeling that that wasn’t the intention. Instead, it’s a very credible attempt at trying something new and growing as an artist, and marks the beginning of a new chapter in the life of one of rock’s best loved figures.
For fans of: Blur, Supergrass, Pixies
Words by Luke Nuttall