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May 10, 2011

ARTICLE: Song of the Day: 'The Kids From Yesterday,' My Chemical Romance

I remember exactly when I gave up on the alternative music press. In the weeks following the release of "The Black Parade," certain high-profile, influential music review websites did not see fit to write about it. Oh, they had pixels to devote to Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear, and lots to say about Joanna Newsom's own dense, difficult meditation on love, family, and death. My Chemical Romance? Well, that was an emo band from New Jersey. They couldn't possibly have anything to contribute.
"The Black Parade" is not a flawless album. My guess is that Gerard Way considers flawlessness to be vaguely fascist. All-out is the only way he knows how to play the game, and that means he'll always give himself room to make mistakes. He's going to take young lust, and rebellion, and fear of oblivion, and push it all as hard as he can; and considering the volatile quality of the material he's handling, he's bound to get a little hysterical in the process. If that is emo, then so is J.D. Salinger. Heck, so is William Shakespeare.

Both "The Black Parade" and its follow-up, "Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys," are attempts to apply the raw power of classic rock and pop to gigantic, unanswerable existential questions. Their reach exceeds their grasp, and that makes them no different from every other gang of philosophers in world history. Unsubtle they are, and bombastic, and pretentious. But to refuse to engage with their accomplished -- and awfully entertaining -- albums is to suggest that pop music is a puny thing that has no business grappling with angels and demons. It's to enforce modesty in a place where modesty has always been an afterthought.

With its New Order bass groove and meditative breakdown section, "The Kids From Yesterday" is an atypical My Chemical Romance number. The band has not played it much on this tour. Yet there is no song closer to the thematic center of "Danger Days." The narrator is all grown up, but he's refusing to set aside what he learned as a kid: that authority is deadening, that adulthood is no great shakes, that the TV is a propaganda tool, and that every ride could be the last. Even with the knowledge of his own mortality, Way is determined to live as hard as a teenager, and to allow his full-color feelings to shine as big and bright as they can. "You only hear the music when your heart begins to break," sings the MCR frontman. Sounds awfully emo to me. Hey, tastemaker, you got a problem with that?

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