My Chemical Romance has probably been the most dogged band of the past decade. 2004’s Hot Topic-tastic Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge made them a hit with the goth/emo/MySpace demographic, and no one else. Follow-up The Black Parade saw the band putting their money where their mouth was, and while it was a good album, it seemed to exhaust the band’s creativity. In 2009, there was talk of a “more punk rock” outting with rock veteran producer Brendan O’Brien doing a “no concept” record.
Well, something somewhere changed, because the name of the album is Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, and the music video for lead single “Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)” shows MCR as The Fabulous Killjoys, a ragtag bunch of misfit freedom fighters, engaged in a ray gun battle against goons from the dystopian Better Living Industries in the desert outside of Battery City in the year 2019.
Goddammit, Gerard Way.
To be fair, this trainwreck of a concept only rears its head three times in the form of DJ interludes. These are by and large ignorable, save “Look Alive, Sunshine”, which starts the album and works really well as an intro to “Na Na Na”. And “Na Na Na” was a smart first track; it’s one of the stronger cuts on the album, and honestly, how you feel about “Na Na Na” is probably how you’ll feel about the album as a whole. It kicks off with one of the best riffs the band’s written, and the breakdown/solo is awesome.
Second song “Bulletproof Heart” only builds on the good vibes that “Na Na Na” started. A great live track in the making, “Bulletproof Heart” flirts with being a ballad, but Ray Toro’s solo and the band’s energy make it one of their better songs.
But as we get to the meat of the album, things start to get ugly. Instead of swinging for the fences like The Black Parade, Danger Days is content to be 12 tunes kicked out by a solid band (no one’s slouching instrumentally here) with some electronics added. And it works sometimes, but then there’s “SING”, an uninspired song that’s forgotten as soon as it ends, and “Planetary (GO!)”, as annoying as it is sloppy.
Fortunately, things finally pick up with the rocking “Party Poison”, and the desperately frayed “Save Yourself, I’ll Hold Them Back”. The melancholy “Scarecrow” (no, fuck that title they gave it, I’m writing it like a normal person) shows MCR doing a slow burning track, and it works really well. “Summertime” might be fairly cliche and mall punk, but there’s still something to like about it.
One of Danger Days‘s flaws is it’s bipolar nature. We go from the pretty “Summertime” to “DESTROYA”, which tries so hard to be intense and completely faceplants at it. The songs only come in two flavors: the rock and slower. After the ugly “DESTROYA”, there’s the Killers’-tinged “The Kids From Yesterday”, an ok song that’s sunk by its length. Final cut “Vampire Money” thrashes in all the right ways, but still feels like a tossed-off afterthought.
While there’s plenty to like, Danger Days has some problems as well. The production is way too polished and claustrophobic; everyone sounds slightly too loud and trying to fight over each other. Gerard Way totally fumbles on this album; gone is the poise and charisma he used on The Black Parade, and instead he’s an obnoxious, in your face brat. Danger Days also has some of his weakest, blandest lyrics. Gone are guns, cancer patients, and death, now we’re dealing with lots of “me and you”s and “let’s runaway”s. It seems like the whole band lost their focus here, and we’re given a messy but promising album instead of something of substance. Three and a half out of five.
tl;dr: Everyone will like something, but no one will love it all, three and a half stars.