My Chemical Romance speak to a constituency that few over 25 in Britain can understand. Singer Gerard Way sings of redemption from depression and death, and a black-garbed teenage tribe who would once have been goths, but are now a more general phenomenon, listen intently.
My Chemical Romance have leapt to prominence with third album The Black Parade, a nakedly ambitious concept album about a teenage cancer patient, accompanied by Way interviews copiously confessing to suicidal depression. Adults who wonder what US teenagers have to whine about underestimate American adolescence's straitjacket conformity. Whether My Chemical Romance are perpetuating or punching through depression and self-hate is a harder question.
The black uniforms of imaginary marching band The Black Parade the group wear reinforce the notion that their new album is a post-Columbine Sgt Pepper. Screams in the dark confirm the crowd's devotion, soon rewarded when "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" plugs straight into the mainline of teenage frustration.
The Kurt Weill oompah of "Mama" and the Sousa marching-band drums of "Welcome to the Black Parade", added to guitars invoking Queen, show these are not simple punks. The latter song, about its cancer teen's childhood dream of becoming "the saviour of the broken", is sung by the crowd from its first chord, an anthem already.
Before the T Rex vamp of "Teenagers", the 29-year-old Way bonds with his fans over mutual mistreatment by media "haters". They are feared because they're "dangerous", he claims, to happy cheers; empowerment or delusion, this is rock's constant hope. His entreaty to "stay who you are" before "Give 'Em Hell" has a firmer ring, even if the song is a vague thrash. But if his occasional goose-steps are more Freddie Starr than fascist, they do recall another leader who identified his problems with his audience's. His equally regular Rocky Horror struts denote a sense of humour. But overreaching ego is the other side of this self-hater, visibly about to boil over.
For the sensitive acoustic guitars of "Cancer", many in the audience hold aloft their lighters and mobiles. If My Chemical Romance seem more likely to burn off teenage energy than focus it in some sort of righteous children's crusade, that isn't a bad thing. They lack the talent and sheer weird need to be the icons they think they are. But as help for the few in the audience who really need it, there have been worse.Reuse content