Music Reviews
Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys

My Chemical Romance Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys

(Reprise Records) Buy it from Insound Rating - 7/10

Ah, the concept album.  The fantasy-ridden, uber geeky magnum opus of everyone from rock legends The Who to rap up-and-comer Wale.  But while those acts spoke of pinball and, well, nothing, My Chemical Romance speak of a future where rock and roll is king and the world we know is dead.  If that sounds sort of familiar, the same kind of grand, operatic despair, then clearly you heard their last album, the equally-as-conceptual The Black Parade.  This time around, though, the band present an alternate future, where science fiction and punk have mated, creating a post-apocalyptic desert landscape of nihilism and good old fashioned rock and roll fun.

Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is a shot in the arm via the band’s reimagining of The Stooges and MC5 with their own more mainstream rock tendencies. Danger Days presents the band as the Killjoys, hoodlums roaming the ruined landscape, rocking out against the evil Better Living Industries.  Listening to the album, though, you get almost none of that (thanks supplementary websites and various media outlets!)  Instead, the album’s focus is on the songs, leaving the universe itself to be explored by the listener elsewhere.   There’s skits by the narrator/band guide, the pirate radio DJ Dr. Death Defying, but they set the stage for the album’s vibrant feel, not  unnecessary storyline.  With so much less to wade through, the album makes room for the songs to be everything you’ll ever need to understand the life and times of the Killjoys.  And just who are the Killjoys?  Other than the band clearly living out Ziggy Stardust-esque dreams of rock projection, they’re musical outlaws, rebelling against everything MCR was. 

The Killjoys make songs like Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na), an annoyingly catchy song with a rollicking, driving rhythm, hyper-sweet melody and chant, and lines like “Shut up and let me see your jazz hands/Or remember when you were a madman, thought you were Batman/And hit the party with a gas can.”  The good time continues in Party Poison, a high-energy affair made of the simple stuff rock and roll was born of: an understated, infectious guitar line and a love of jamming the fuck out. They’re also pretty good at being goofy, painting a very Stooges-like picture (if they were weirdoes who liked comic books and scary movies) in Vampire Money, which is the most endearing example of their new sound and the most linear to their beloved old-school punk.  Don’t for a second, however, think they’re all surface, as they demonstrate in DESTROYA.  Those little punks show a maddeningly simple beat can be almost primal while offering a shred of mature depth (“You don't believe in God/I don't believe in luck.”)  They’re the reckless abandonment without all the emotional baggage, ready to burn the world down for shits and giggles.  Nice meeting ya, gents. 

While the band excel at leaving Helena alone in her tomb, there’s still plenty of moments where they seemingly revert to the MCR of old.  SING is too soft, too much like Black Parade’s mission of uniting as a lonely, depressive teenage front.  The Only Hope For Me Is You is a worst offender, more clichés from a band who has found a new, more tantalizing set of tricks to utilize.  Those indiscretions, though, are minor, and even some of them at least attempt to toward Killjoys-ian glory, like the vaguely Nine Inch Nails creep-o synth of Planetary (GO!), or The Kids From Yesterday, which takes their previously-stunted emotionality and makes it clean and poppy with a noteworthy chorus, a laid-back groove, and more stellar synth action. 

It’s no exaggeration that doing two concept records in a row could have been disastrous.  But after four years and a whole lot of life, MCR proves with Danger Days that the days of their self-involved, namby-pampy crybaby act are a thing (mostly) of the past.  And to think, all it took was the end of days.