I have little shame in admitting that I, like a lot of other people that grew up in the years I did, first got fully immersed in music through listening to so called, emo. Therefore, it is maybe no surprise that I spent quite a lot of time listening to My Chemical Romance, in fact my first ever gig was to see that very band. Of course to actually call My Chemical Romance emo was always a bit of a stretch, they popularised the visual style that became common with that movement, but their early work had more roots in punk, while later on they moved onto a style that was more reminiscent of Queen than EMBRACE. I can’t say much about the work they did post Black Parade, which is when my own interest faded, but it seemed to mainly be a bit shit.
Of course MCR are now over and charismatic front man Gerard Way is out on his own, with his debut album Hesitant Alien dropping this week. It’s an album that MCR devotees might find hard to stomach, mainly because it sounds nothing like them. Instead, Way seems to have gone into the past and taken inspiration from glam rock acts like David Bowie, while the production has a fuzzy garage rock element, that might take a bit of getting used to. Opener “The Bureau” goes even further, taking in elements of shoegaze, with it’s ambient sound ramped up, before “Action Cat” brings in catchy hooks and ooohing. The only career move I can really think to compare it to is Frank Carter’s move from Gallows to Pure Love. Not even because I think Hesitant Alien sounds like Pure Love, although it does have similarities, but because they compare in seeing two front men leave highly successful bands, to release albums so far from what they were doing before they are practically unrecognisable.
I also have to be honest and say Hesitant Alien isn’t really my thing. The shoegazing/indie elements are far too strong for my own personal taste. However, there is some good stuff on this album. Tracks like “Brother” show Way off as having a strong voice and are catchy and sweet in their elegant simplicity. There is still an element of the defiant Way that characterised so much of what was good in MCR, as he asks if “anyone has the guts to shut me up”, but overall it feels like a man much more at peace with himself than he was during my angsty teenage yeaers.
This is the kind of album that I would not have paid the slightest bit of attention to 99% of the time. It has got a lot more in common with Britpop than it does heavy metal. However, a hint of teenage nostalgia convinced me to check it out when I saw it on the release list for this week and as much as it would be quite fun to sit and slag it off, I actually kind of enjoyed it. It’s nice to know that somewhere out there the people that got me into this music are still doing alright and while I wouldn’t listen to it, it may well inspire someone else to care about this stuff in the same way I do.