Op-ed: My Chemical Romance, the band that got me into music

In light of the big news surrounding MCR’s reunion.

Every person has that one band, song, or album that introduced them to the music that they now live and breathe. For me, that was My Chemical Romance when I first heard (and then obsessed over) ‘The Black Parade‘ when I was 12 years old in late 2007. That was perhaps the single greatest musical watershed moment of my formative years. As that album is a huge reason as to why I like the music that I do now; this is the band that got me to start playing drums; and hell, my love for them and this music is why I’m writing any of this at all right now. They’re why I’m here today; my first musical love. I wasn’t into music in any capacity before MCR, but I was after finding them.

My Chemical Romance takes up a special residence in my heart as a gateway drug into the bands I’d later fall in love with and discover. Underoath, AFI, Alkaline Trio, Rise Against, Senses Fail, The Used, Taking Back Sunday, From Autumn To Ashes, Thursday, Atreyu, Killswitch Engage – the list just goes on and on in terms of what artists MCR put me onto. If I was to trace back every single thing about my life and what I enjoy that’s in any way musical, it’s all because of them. And I’m not the only one like that either. As the impact they had by the time they were five years deep at just album number three in 2006 is almost unbelievable.

MCR’s reunion is, understandably, huge news. They shockingly walked away on their own terms in 2013 when they were still relevant – still a much-loved band in the alternative and rock landscape – and their legacy has endeared significantly ever since. If anything, they’re far bigger now than they ever were during ‘The Black Parade‘ period or in their post ‘Danger Days‘ era. It’s a similar thing with Refused or At The Drive-In: disbandment while at one’s peak cements a mighty legacy for years to come, and echoes a much larger return down the road. And next to Rage Against The Machine’s recently announced 2020 return, this is one of the biggest ones yet.

It’s news that has and will see music outlets dig up the oldest, circa-2006 marching-band promos as opposed to using more recent images, often with superficial social media captions about putting on black eyeliner. It’s a massively anticipated return that, ironically enough given their moniker, has probably shot doses of serotonin through the brains of eager fans across the globe more than anything else of late. It’s a reunion that has seen many theories floating around – ‘Danger Days‘ was conceptually set in 2019, Gerard Way once mentioning they wanted to mimic Smashing Pumpkins, who were a band for 12 years first and then had a hiatus for six, much like MCR’s own timeline. Yet all of that is mostly peripheral to me. As I’m just infinitely happy that the band that changed my life for the better as a young man is active again; playing shows and whatever else may come in the future. This is a scenario where I’d rather hear new music then never hear a band that meant so much to me not create anything ever again.

The people who didn’t like MCR before their split won’t like them now, and that’s totally fine, but this is something that’s not meant for them. Some fans prefer the raw sound of ‘Bullets…‘ or the polished alt-rock ‘Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge‘ – great albums in their own right. Whereas others prefer the flashy, theatrical opera-rock of ‘The Black Parade‘ or the colourful, synth-driven ‘Danger Days‘ (the latter being a solid release; different doesn’t mean ‘bad’, nerds). And then there’s the poor bastards who love ‘Conventional Weapons‘ – which misses way more than it hits – or the bands often-forgotten singles like ‘My Way Home Is Through You,’ the officially unreleased ‘Stay,’ ‘Kill All Your Friends,’ or ‘Zero Percent.’ Yet no matter the album you prefer, this is cause for celebration. (And memes, always memes.)

MCR wasn’t just a time-and-place act, though we all know deep down that certainly helped the success of their career. No, their songs truly spoke for themselves: ‘I’m Not Okay (I Promise)‘ and ‘Welcome to The Black Parade‘ are two quintessential tracks for where the sound of pop-punk, alt-rock and “emo” of the early-to-mid 2000s was at. Wanted big riffs or killer solos? Lead guitarist Ray Toro had ’em all. Wanted some more aggressive punk rock attitude? The band had that in spades in the early days, and older songs like ‘Our Lady Of Sorrow‘ or ‘Give ‘Em Hell, Kid‘ haven’t gone anywhere. Needed some stellar vocal hooks? Gerard confidently leads the catchy charge across the band’s discography with some of the most well-loved choruses to ever come out of this scene. At the time, many people probably thought they were just a temporary fashion statement (or a deathwish), but MCR, even in their own faked deaths, out-lasted any and all negativity. And they will continue to do so, as the quality songwriting and performances of this group run right through their humble 2001 beginnings and well up to their 2013 hiatus. They really were masters of their craft.

Maybe you have somehow scored tickets to their December headliner in America later this year. Or maybe you’re going to Download Festival Australia 2020 to catch their headlining set. (Metalheads sooking online about MCR topping that particular festival amuses me to no end.) Or maybe you’re still waiting, hoping, for an announcement to come soon for your neck of the woods. Whatever the case may be, there’s a crazed excitement brewing for so many around the right now. This is a return that’ll see many old and new songs performed; from the hits through to deep cuts, with all that’s left to do now is wait and see how they perform come these huge new shows happening. And whatever else comes is simply just how MCR re-appear from their previous magic trick. This was all no accident.

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