In a way, the huge achievement that was The Black Parade CD and tour almost caused the guys in My Chemical Romance to forget who they are as a band.
Released in 2006, The Black Parade CD itself was one of the most ambitious albums of recent vintage, a full-blown theatrical concept album that essentially centered around a journey through death as told from the perspective of a character called “the patient.” Despite that subject matter, it was a musically compelling and highly entertaining work.
The real topper, though, was the marathon tour, in which My Chemical Romance donned black outfits and essentially became the band The Black Parade. During that set, the group performed the album from front to back, before returning to the stage for a second set as My Chemical Romance and playing a selection of songs from earlier albums.
Having been immersed in such a lavish production for months on end, the group reacted sharply to The Black Parade by teaming up with super-producer Brendan O’Brien and recording a back-to-basics, non-thematic album that was essentially the polar opposite of The Black Parade.
It was only after finishing that CD that the guys in My Chemical Romance — singer Gerard Way, his brother, bassist Mikey Way, guitarists Ray Toro and Frank Iero, and recently departed drummer Bob Bryar — realized they had lost their way and began the process of rediscovering and reclaiming the group’s musical identity.
“I think we accomplished what we set out to do,” Mikey Way says of the disc produced by O’Brien (known for his work with Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam). “But there was nothing; there was no high arc to it. There were no, like, left turns where you saw a right turn ahead. There were no sudden drops or sudden spikes. It was very much a middle-of-the-road rock album, which isn’t like us. That’s not something that we would normally do.”
So the band shelved the O’Brien tracks, reunited with the producer of The Black Parade, Rob Cavallo, and returned to writing and recording new songs.
“We were about five songs in and we realized we were tracking a new album. We didn’t quite realize it at the time,” Mikey Way says. “We thought we were just making more songs for our [O’Brien-produced] album. But there was something in those songs that was so special and undeniable that we were like, this is the route we have to go.”
The CD that finally emerged from the second round of writing and recording — 2010’s Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys — sounds much more like a My Chemical Romance CD. Yet at the same time it’s something different for the band.
On the one hand, Danger Days once again has a story line — this time it’s a futuristic tale in which America is ruled by a devious corporation called Better Living Industries, and a group of rogue artists called the “Killjoys” come to the rescue to try to destroy Better Living Industries and save society. As one might expect, the CD has its share of elaborately produced songs with plenty of instrumental bells and whistles and undeniable melodic hooks.
But it is also an upbeat CD — a first for a band that previously had stuck to dark themes with plenty of emotional turmoil. This shift in mood reflects the improved outlook of the band.
“It’s a complete 180,” Mikey Way says. “There were a lot of growing pains that we probably went through in the time during The Black Parade. We were a relatively young band, and we saw a lot of crazy things that transpired. The band got extremely big and the workload was extremely big. But I think we’re all very comfortable in our own skin now. Yeah, everybody’s just really happy.”
Not surprisingly, the shows in support of Danger Days — both as headliners and now opening for Blink-182 — have a very different vibe from The Black Parade extravaganza.
“It’s kind of a less-is-more approach,” Mikey Way said, noting that the group has scaled back the stage set and pyrotechnics of The Black Parade concerts and ditched its black costumes. “We really wanted to give people the band. We wanted to showcase just the guys playing the instruments this time and show people, because some people haven’t gotten the chance to see a proper My Chemical Romance show. Maybe they only saw a ‘Black Parade’ show. It’s almost like a reboot of sorts.”
On the Bill
My Chemical Romance opens for Blink-182 at Comfort Dental Amphitheatre on Sunday, Sept. 4. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. Tickets start at $33.50.6350 Greenwood Plaza Blvd., Greenwood Village, 303-220-7000.