There has always been an element of melodramatic theatre in My Chemical Romance’s music – their very first album opened with a rickety recording of the Spanish classical piece ‘Romanza’ – but it only became readily apparent to most with the release of The Black Parade in 2006. The sprawling, macabre-themed concept record was recorded with Rob Cavallo, producer of Green Day’s similarly epic American Idiot record, and saw the band ditch the quick-fire punk pop of their earlier records for more conventional glam rock, with the influence of Queen and T-Rex particularly resonant on singles ‘Teenagers’ and ‘Welcome to the Black Parade.’
For all its vision, however, The Black Parade lacked both the subtlety and musical accomplishment of the groups they sought to emulate, and the less-than-fabulously titled Danger Days: the True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys accelerates the theme still further. The concept this time centres around the “Fabulous Killjoys,” a band of four named characters (Party Poison, Jet Star, Fun Ghoul and Kobra Kid) bravely fighting against a predictably evil corporation (they always are) that’s hell-bent on world domination. Not much of this can be gleaned from the record itself, but it’s all been laid out by the band in an admittedly impressive PR campaign that includes a video stream of the entire album veejayed by its narrator, Dr. Death Defying, a.k.a. Steve Righ of Mindless Self Indulgence.
Musically, Danger Days picks up fairly close to where the Black Parade left off four years ago. Lead single ‘Na Na Na’ is standard My Chemical Romance with a rapidfire punk rock riffing and snappy gang vocals, though the Van Halen-inspired guitar solo is a new and welcome addition. ‘Party Poison’ is the record’s clear highlight, harking back to the band’s earlier records with frenetic guitar riffs and an infectious chorus. ‘Sing’ showcases funk guitar chops and hip hop-inspired beats reminiscent of Red Hot Chilli Peppers, while ‘S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W’ comes entirely from leftfield with Gerard Way’s sweet falsetto adding a whole new layer to the group’s sound.
The flashes of quality rarely last, though, as the majority of the record is dull musically and hopeless lyrically. ‘Bulletproof Heart’ offers an unusual slab of wisdom in the line “gravity don’t mean too much to me” while the dire Rage Against the Machine pastiche ‘Destroya’ sees Way indulge in the sort of sub-John Lennon waffle not seen since, well, John Lennon: “You don’t believe in God, I don’t believe in luck, they don’t believe in us, but I believe in the enemy.” The constant interruptions from the grating Dr. Death do little to help the flow of the record, though in light of dreary ballads like ‘Kids from Yesterday’ and bizarre closer ‘Vampire Money,’ it’s not always a bad thing.
As far as follow-ups to successful concept records go, Danger Days is neither as poor nor as unimaginative as Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown. The band do at least attempt to incorporate some new influences, and not all of those attempts are unsuccessful, but it does reveal something that almost all of these new influences in fact date back 20, 30 and even 40 years. In contrast to the warped imagination that brought us the archetypal futuristic concept record of recent years – Deltron 3030 – the faces behind Danger Days come across as just a little bit mad and more than a bit out of touch.