ALBUM REVIEW: ‘The Black Parade / Living With Ghosts’ by My Chemical Romance

So here we are, ten years on from the release of My Chemical Romance’s seminal penultimate effort The Black Parade, an album that, in all honesty, is worth celebrating. It was the album that, back in 2006, tore the rock paradigm open with brazen theatricality, a sense for operatic grandiosity that had remained unparalleled since the heyday of Queen and an album packed with wall-to-wall huge tunes. It made My Chemical Romance the biggest band on the planet, idolised by a fanbase that transcended into a worldwide community and vilified by mainstream press who branded them as a “suicide death cult”. It’s a reaction that has since been unmatched by any band since, and an album like The Black Parade at the very nucleus of the entire thing deserves all the reverence it gets. Saying that, it could’ve been done with a bit more tact – the teaser trailer posted by the band, the first sign of online movement from them in years, certainly hinted at that (and would’ve saved the backlash from fans getting their hopes up about a reunion when there was no evidence or even implication of any such thing). As such we get this shameless cash-in – sorry, reissue – packaging the original album with a collection of demos cobbled together from its recording sessions.

And as an album, the original The Black Parade still holds up remarkably well. Sure, overexposure means that the likes of Welcome To The Black Parade and Teenagers aren’t met with the same wide-eyed, drop-everything-and-pay-attention reaction anymore, but they’re still good songs, and I Don’t Love You remains particularly underrated when it comes to bigger MCR singles. But as was always the case, The Black Parade‘s brightest-glittering moments come in its album tracks. Mama is still the fabulously over-the-top Vaudevillian masterpiece that it always was and will be; Disenchanted nails the buildup from pensive acoustic guitar plucks to fist-in-the-air power balladry; the hellish rockabilly of House Of Wolves has all the clattering momentum of a rocket-powered runaway train; and Blood‘s jolly campiness gets a promotion from hidden easter egg to a full-blown place on the track list, so that’s a nice touch. Even ten years later it’s hard not to sing the praises of The Black Parade – it really has stood the test of time that well.

But of course, the main attraction with this release is Living With Ghosts, the collection of demos and rarities added to the end of the album, and to be honest, they’re what sends this package falling by a substantial amount. To criticise them for being rough around the edges is superfluous (though in some cases it’s a justified point given how garbled they occasionally sound) and while it is interesting to hear prototype versions of Mama and Welcome To The Black Parade (under the title of The Five Of Us Are Dying), they shouldn’t be here at all. There’s a reason these were left on the cutting room floor, and the fact that they feel this slapdash and jagged is probably it. You’ve got tracks like House Of Wolves (Version 2) and My Way Home Is Through You in which Gerard Way’s vocals sound so weak and are frequently drowned out in the already poor mix, while House Of Wolves (Version 1) drones in with the fidelity of radio static. And while it would be interesting to hear Emily or Party At The End Of The World touched up into proper songs, their bare bones inclusions here were in no way fit to release to general public, never mind the ethical iffiness that comes with the fact that this is essentially a posthumous release.

Probably the worst thing about it is that it’s these rough cuts that are the only thing brought out to celebrate The Black Parade‘s anniversary. For an album that changed rock music in a way that has not since been equaled, it feels like a cop-out, and as a collection, this reissue does disappoint overall. My Chemical Romance diehards will probably get something out of this (but saying that, when haven’t they got something out of anything with the MCR name attached to it?), but other than that, this feels like a classic album weighed down by unnecessary, forgotten baggage that should’ve stayed forgotten. Really, both My Chemical Romance and The Black Parade deserve better.


For fans of: The Used, Fall Out Boy, Taking Back Sunday
Words by Luke Nuttall 

‘The Black Parade / Living With Ghosts’ by My Chemical Romance is out now on Reprise Records.

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