I'm way past the point in my life where the break-up of any band should provoke much of a reaction from me. I've got day-to-day concerns right now that are a hell of a lot more pressing than whether a bunch of people whose music I happen to like will continue making music that I happen to like. And yet My Chemical Romance was never just another band for me. Maybe it's fitting that I feel the way I do about their recent break-up given that I was always willing to admit to one of my favorite things about them as a band: they made me feel like a kid again.
Last month, I was having beers with a good friend of mine who's close to the guys in My Chemical Romance -- he toured with them a few years back -- and he told me that he was concerned about the future of the band given that there were no plans for them to record again that he knew of. He figured it probably meant that MCR was through. Well, last weekend frontman Gerard Way confirmed as much in a short online statement thanking fans for their support and explaining that it was time to wrap up things up for good. He went on to post a second statement, this one lengthier and much more personal, going into detail about why the decision was made to break up the band that had, in just 12 short years, made him the subject of teen adulation and a pretty damn good amount of critical acclaim to boot.
Maybe that was what I always found so remarkable about My Chemical Romance: the fact that they rose, almost literally, out of the ashes of 9/11 -- they were formed in Jersey City, New Jersey, in the shadow of the World Trade Center, immediately following the attacks -- and in the time it takes most bands to get their footing were making music that was astonishingly well-crafted and mature. It seemed like they lived a lifetime in their dozen years as an outfit, going from the indie goth of I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love to the assured punk fire of Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge in just two years, then from that to the spectacularly audacious bombast of The Black Parade -- what I believe is the best alt-rock album of the 2000s -- just two years later. It was an accelerated evolution that's honestly nothing short of mind-boggling for a pop act. They'd go on to record a full album a couple of years later then scrap it in favor of taking the band in an entirely different direction. Their last complete release, 2010's Danger Days, was a surprising departure for the band and one that yielded quite a few very nice rewards.
Over the past several months, My Chemical Romance's previously unreleased, Brendan O'Brien-produced fourth album -- the one that was scrapped -- has slowly been made available to the public. Rhythm guitarist Frank Iero cracked a couple of years ago that the band would let people hear the "black album" as a final treat for fans just before they broke up -- and I guess that turned out to be the case. For the record, the wait was worth it; it's a damn good album.
Before MCR came along, it had been decades since I'd been a full-blown fanboy of any band. You get older and not only do your tastes change but so does the level of devotion you're willing to extend to something as ephemeral as a bunch of guys playing music. What used to be a rolling boil is reduced to a simmer because it has to be; you don't have the time or the energy to spend on your rock 'n' roll fetishes anymore. But for me, My Chemical Romance changed all that. I bought the records the minute they came out. I wore the T-shirts. I took a train to upstate New York and stood in line in the frigid night, surrounded by worshipful kids dressed in every shade of black, for the chance to see MCR live. I wrote about My Chem again and again.
They were the soundtrack to my recovery from a brain tumor in 2006 and what I was listening to when I wrote about the experience a year later, in a piece that quoted the lyrics to the secret track on The Black Parade, "Blood." That record got me through the ordeal of trying to put my life back together in the wake of the surgery, then through the trauma of my divorce in 2009. Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge and its twin battle cries of Thank You for the Venom and I'm Not Okay were blasting into my ears as I viciously banged out the most horrific moments of my book, Dead Star Twilight. Just a couple of weeks ago, I made a playlist for my four-year-old daughter, on her iPod, and made sure to include The Light Behind Your Eyes, because it always reminds me of her.
There's no other way to say it, no reason to try to downplay it. I really fucking loved My Chemical Romance. And I always will.
So I guess all that's left to say is a very heartfelt thanks -- for making great music, for being there when I needed an outlet for my rage, uncertainty, longing and even unabashed joy, and, yes, for making me feel like a kid again.
Though you're dead and gone, believe me, your memory will carry on.
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