The Black Parade
The concept behind My Chemical Romance’s third album is simple: A young man on the edge of death passes into the afterlife. They’d done drama before—2004’s Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, “Helena” especially—but this time they wanted to go big. The Wall big, Queen-in-the-’70s big, Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness big: soundtracks teenagers could pin their hearts on. It’s a tricky proposition: How do you dramatize something so grave without sounding slightly ridiculous? But the New Jersey punk outfit’s sense of humor and presentation serves them well here. Yes, they sing about being “soggy from the chemo” (“Cancer”) and how they deserve to be kicked like stray dogs (“House of Wolves”). But they also say that hell is mostly fine except for the smell (“Mama”) and bring in a horn section to jazz things up (“Dead!”). That death arrives in the form of a parade makes sense: It’s all a show, and they intend on hamming it up as much as makeup and wardrobe will allow (“Welcome to the Black Parade”). The album marked a moment of reconciliation between the scrappy, subcultural side of pop-punk and classic rock’s scale and ambition—a process that had started a couple of years earlier with Green Day’s American Idiot. But it also captured a lingering mood post-911, as a generation of young listeners tried to find humor in what felt like an increasingly doomed world, while still acknowledging the terror of it all. The band had an interest in the world of horror movies and comic books, where sweeping romantic tales are often told by self-consciously nerdy people playing out heroic fantasies through art. With The Black Parade, they tap-dance on the deck of the Titanic—and for all the talk about death, they play like a band squeezing each note for any bit of life it has to give.