My Chemical Romance
Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys (Reprise)
Over-the-top arena-rockers My Chemical Romance have clearly been busy in the four years since their last album, The Black Parade. The band’s new disc is crammed full of meticulous, even obsessive, details: the half-baked conceit of MCR as futuristic freedom fighters, multi-tracked-to-infinity guitars, and explicit nods to dance music and slick ’80s radio pop. It’s the kind of recording that results when a band has an indulgent label, a limitless budget, and outsized ambition. You know, the circumstances that produced Chinese Democracy.
It turns out that all that messing around has paid off for once. Danger Days is a big, smart, kind-of-great rock record, and a more than worthy follow-up to the baroque genius of The Black Parade. Grandiosity has always been MCR’s method; here it’s the essence of the album, which is both a study of and an exercise in pop escapism. (The freedom-fighter metaphor is hard at work.) The band’s reference points—Ziggy Stardust, Journey, Primal Scream, early MTV, John Hughes soundtracks, and the Stooges among them—are obvious, but there’s no trace of a smirk in their deployment. (Part of the fun, like with a Girl Talk album, is identifying the source material.) For all its scope, though, Danger Days is also efficient—15 tracks in 53 minutes, three of them dramatic interludes, with the pop-tastic extravagance balanced by frequent outbursts of snarling punk velocity and its epic reach reined in by savvy songwriting.