The age of the MP3 has been heralded as the downfall of the album as an art form. Used prominently by bands like Pink Floyd, The Who, and many others, the album in it’s entirety as a complete statement has suffered a fracturing as music lovers have been able to buy singles more easily online in recent times. It has even changed the way that record companies do business now as some bands are signed for just one or two songs at first, with more to come if those few singles sell well. But, as with the doom-sayers that are forced out of the woodwork with every new advance in everything, those who bemoan this need to be taken with a grain of salt…the death of the album may have been greatly exaggerated.
I suspect that the more successful bands who are so artistically inclined have been freed up to consider the album format more fully as that is no longer the norm. And, since it is no longer standard practice, since we have almost in fact returned to the days of Sinatra and Motown where albums were one or two singles carefully crafted and then filled out with covers or songs slapped together to fill space, when a band utilizes that format well it stands out all the more.
I recently (I apologize for being behind, but it was given to me) listened to My Chemical Romance’s October 2006 release The Black Parade, and I believe that this album stands alone in recent music as a phenomenal work. In my humble opinion, this album is artistically and musically a work of inspired genius from the opening of the first track to the end of the hidden track.
A large part of the drawing power the album holds can be attributed to the fact that the band’s frontman, Gerrard Way, is developing into one of the best impassioned singers of the current commercial musical scene. What Issac Brock does for Modest Mouse and Axel Rose did for Guns and Roses, Way does for MCR and his talents are on full display on The Black Parade. Way’s best track is quite possibly “Mama”, the album’s eclectic and large scale ninth track, but he also lets loose in “House of Wolves” and his vocal and emotional range are prevalent throughout the album.
Instrumentally, MCR take risks throughout that pay dividends in both technical aspects and song structure. Bob Bryar’s drums throughout are a high point of the album. Anyone who pays attention to the back beat in the music will want to give this album a listen. Bryar ventures away from the traditional rock beats in a lot of places on the album to make the drums stand up as a fronting instrument, while at the same time working well with Mikey Way’s bass lines to hold the songs together. Although, I must say, I found it difficult to point out a place in the album where the bass really stood out (or was even specifically audible). The guitars are well done as Ray Toro and Frank Iero have not only strayed from traditional riff-rock, but have dared to channel some of their guitar heroes to bring the songs to a level above a lot of current radio rock singles. In several sections the distorted guitar has the well-produced sheen of modern rock and stadiums rather than the dirtier sound associated with the nostalgic concept of “rock and roll” (this is especially noticeable in the fifth track “Welcome to the Black Parade”), but this does not detract from the songs as the band seemed to be channeling acts like Queen, Pink Floyd, and other stadium sized acts.
Coming from a band that has been disputably labeled “emo” (a dubious label to apply to any band these days given the connotations it has developed) this album shows a giant leap forward from their last album, which was pretty damn good in it’s own right, and shows us that the power of the album is still out there to be seized by those who have the will. It also makes My Chemical Romance a band worth following to see just what they’ll do next.
Best Track(s): Mama, Teenagers, Famous Last Words