My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade: Ranking the songs
A reissue of the 2006 album arrives this fall
My Chemical Romance disbanded in 2013, but as frontman Gerard Way said in their original breakup announcement, “It can never die.” That wasn’t just a line: The band will live on in the form of a reissue of The Black Parade that will feature previously unreleased demos, a source confirmed to EW Wednesday. (The band officially shared the news Thursday.)
The Black Parade debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 when it came out in October 2006 and later went platinum. The record follows a character titled The Patient who’s dying of cancer and visited by the Black Parade — a.k.a. death, a.k.a. My Chemical Romance. The fivesome — consisting then of brothers Gerard and Mikey Way along with Ray Toro, Frank Iero, and Bob Bryar — ditched their all-black Warped Tour-appropriate looks for The Black Parade tour and press, instead opting for (still all-black) uniforms.
The album itself matched their new theatrical look, and immediately stood out as a cinematic rock opera that still retained the band’s signature sentiment. On the occasion of its upcoming reissue, we’ve ranked the songs — secret track “Blood” included. Press play, then read on.
“Sleep” is big and brash, perfect for arenas — and that’s what’s wrong with it: In concert, it fills the room, but on headphones or dingy bedroom speakers, it feels out of place and unremarkable.
Although “Disenchanted” isn’t necessarily worth writing home about on its own, the ballad is a welcome breather on an album full of raucous songs, and a calm-before-the-storm preamble to album closer “Famous Last Words.” The pretty, gentle opening guitar gives way to more forceful instrumentals as the narrator (Gerard Way) waxes nostalgic about the life he’s about to leave. By the end, the drums and guitars fade away, leaving that same pretty guitar joined only by Way’s parting whispers.
The old-timey spirit of ninth track “Mama” lives on in secret track “Blood,” a delightfully upbeat ditty with deliciously dark lyrics. Way’s inner theater kid fully emerges here — which could turn annoying if it wasn’t for the song’s brevity; it clocks in at under two minutes — as he adds cartoonish vocals to a staccato piano straight from a silent film soundtrack.
11. “I Don’t Love You”
A break-up anthem for the ages with the added heaviness of, you know, the singer dying of cancer, “I Don’t Love You” is a rock ballad complete with urgent, desperate belting and big guitars. Like much of this album, it’s a departure from MCR’s usual sound, but they (again, like much of this album) use it to prove their versatility — and their potential to be a kickass cover band if all else fails.
10, 9, and 8. “This Is How I Disappear,” “The Sharpest Lives,” and “House of Wolves”
This cluster of tracks is basically a group of outtakes from their 2004 album Three Cheers — a good thing given that that collection hinted at the band’s theatrics to come, but through a pop-punk lens, especially with playful songs like “You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us in Prison” and “Give ‘Em Hell, Kid.”
7. “The End.”
This is how you intro an album: Way literally advises his listeners, “Come one and come all to this tragic affair” in this Queen-inspired, amusingly dramatic opener, effectively setting the somber-but-silly mood for the rest of the record.
The Patient confronts what’s killing him on what’s arguably the album’s most overtly bleak track, one that includes lyrics like, “Baby, I’m just soggy from the chemo / But counting down the days to go / It just ain’t living.” Between Way’s despondent vocals and sweetly morose piano, “Cancer” lets itself wallow in the pain of fast-approaching death, and is all the better for it: Subtlety need not apply on The Black Parade, an album all about facing the pain, absurdity, and, at times, humor of the end.
MCR’s foray into camp peaks with “Mama,” a track that wouldn’t seem out of a place at a vaudeville show — especially thanks to Liza Minnelli’s drowned-out guest vocals, the only feature on the album. This is MCR at their most ambitious, something that makes “Mama” irresistible even if you didn’t put on a My Chem record looking for a four minute and 39 second musical.
Complaining about teenagers is bound to age a song. Instead, Way’s glam rock rant about young’uns is about as youthful as you can get, with a defiant chorus suitable for accompanying fist-pumping and verses full of confident, captivating swagger.
3. “Famous Last Words”
If we’re not counting “Blood,” this is where the album officially ends: on an all-out roar featuring Way’s wails and snarls along with driving, powerful guitars. All goes (mostly) quiet in the bridge, making the song’s ensuing return to its riotous self all the more satisfying before ultimately ending the album on an optimistic note: “I am not afraid to keep on living, I am not afraid to walk this world alone.” “Famous Last Words” is what My Chem — the Black Parade version of My Chem — is all about: rousing anthems that find light in the darkness.
For a song all about dying, “Dead!” is spectacularly fun — and darkly funny: “No one ever had much nice to say,” Way sings matter-of-factly, “I think they never liked you anyway.” Before The Black Parade, My Chem were known as a group of earnest emo dudes, but “Dead!” is the ultimate example of them rejecting that title. Instead they embrace the emotional while also going a little — or, in the case of this track, a lot — tongue-in-cheek.
1. “Welcome to the Black Parade”
That twinkling piano intro. Those drums that come in as soon as Way utters, “When I was a young boy my father took me into the city to see a marching band.” The scream-along chorus. “Welcome to the Black Parade” was the first single MCR released post-Three Cheers, and officially signaled their transformation into a larger-than-life troupe still embodying the outsider mentality that got them fans in the first place. Those very fans can take solace in this song’s chorus, which takes on extra weight now that the band itself is over: “We’ll carry on,” Way sings, “and though you’re dead and gone, believe me, your memory will carry on.”
My Chemical Romance