Of all the ex-members of My Chemical Romance, Frank Iero’s post-breakup efforts have undoubtedly fared the best. With both Gerard and Mikey Way failing to spark any long-term fires with a solo effort and Electric Century respectively, and Ray Toro being virtually AWOL (that is, until his solo album drops in a couple of weeks), the ex-guitarist’s startlingly prolific output has seen him enjoy a veritable second wind at success. Sure, his album with Death Spells earlier this year was messy and lacklustre to say the least, but his debut with his new “main” project Frnkiero Andthe Cellebration, 2014’s Stomacheaches, was actually pretty solid, channeling a more rough-and-tumble brand of punk than his previous band had allowed him to indulge in.
Parachutes represents the follow-up to that album, albeit its creators now undergoing a name change to Frank Iero And The Patience (and clearly finding a spellcheck function), and anyone familiar with Stomachaches will find a lot to enjoy here. It’s basically more of the same – ragged, pop-flavoured punk whose lack of tautness is its greatest advantage – but it’s a bit cleaner this time round. That’s not to say it’s only a step away from MCR’s shiny arena fare; Parachutes merely spruces up the formula that Stomacheaches was going for, peeling back a few layers of muffled fuzz for something a bit brighter and sharper, but no less raw. There’s an emo heart beating in this album, often reminiscent of Taking Back Sunday in their more unhinged moments, but instead of Adam Lazzara’s drawl, there’s Frank Iero’s looser, less polished delivery. Admittedly he’s still not the greatest singer in the world and his squalling attempts at more impassioned vocals can sometimes feel a bit sloppy, but it at least fits the ragtag nature of the music itself. It’s also a lot less measured with a certain degree of manic anxiousness that only amplifies the unhinged, off-the-cuff nature of these songs, especially in tracks like Veins! Veins!! Veins!!! and Dear Percocet, I Don’t Think We Should See Each Other Anymore.
Even with that being the case though, there’s a feeling of Parachutes having just a bit more accessibility than Stomacheaches, still nothing that’ll slot into any daytime radio playlists, but the impetus to use ’90s power-pop hooks as the general foundation leads to songs that feel more solidly structured as opposed to chaos for the sake of chaos. There are some great scratchy hooks on the most poppy tracks like I’m A Mess and Oceans, and the proto-pop-punk feel of The Resurrectionist, Or An Existential Crisis In C# feels like the band at their most natural and comfortable.
But for an album that feels as sonically easygoing as this, Parachutes‘ lyrical focus is a lot more personal and cutting. While the country ballad Miss Me is fairly self-explanatory, They Wanted Darkness sees Iero rally against fake friends with ill intent, while closer 9-6-15 is easily the album’s most powerful track, a full-throated tribute to Iero’s grandfather (“He made the world a better place just by being part of it”) that sees him on the verge of tears as it proceeds to its harshest, most cathartic crescendo. It’s the track where the intensity of its performers benefits it the most, feeling necessary rather than tacked on or lazy as a few of these tracks occasionally feel, and provides the best example possible of this band working their formula for the best result.
For the most part though, that’s how Parachutes feels on the whole, a sharper, more refined take on a sound that was almost realized but desperately needed fixing up. In terms of it being a great album, it doesn’t quite hit that yet – there are still a few kinks in the presentation that need ironing out yet – but it’s a step in the right direction, and it’s a more solid piece of evidence that Iero definitely has one in his locker for further down the line. As of now, Frank Iero And The Patience feels like the most established of their frontman’s projects, and indeed any of the post-MCR projects – it’s memorable with a distinctive sound and flashes of inspired ideas that would be well worth building on in the future. And if anything, it at least shows that, for as profoundly prolific as Iero’s release schedule has been lately, diminished returns are nothing to worry about.
For fans of: Taking Back Sunday, Pup, Weezer
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Parachutes’ by Frank Iero And The Patience is out now on Hassle Records.