10 Years of ‘The Black Parade’

A decade of the most important My Chemical Romance album

10 Years of ‘The Black Parade’

By Kathryn Black

Oct 21, 2016 12:04

How can 2006 seem like such a long, long time ago yet like it was just yesterday at the same time? It was the year Arctic Monkeys released ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’, the year Razorlight headlined Wembley Arena (still, how?) and the year My Chemical Romance’s ‘The Black Parade’ was released, changing with it the reputation and scope of the genre formerly known as emo.

The album, unlike its predecessor ‘Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge’, was played all over the radio and debuted in both the UK and USA at number two in the album charts. There’s no denying it had a huge part in the band’s eventual headline slot at Reading and Leeds Festival, a far cry from and a big middle finger to the bottling of 2006. Defiant and determined even then, Gerard Way declared, “we might be outsiders today, but we represent every outsider out there.”

It’s that attitude that made ‘The Black Parade’ so popular; why that opening note on the piano of the lead single is just so recognisable and why it brings back memories of the struggles of growing up made a little easier with music to cling on to.

From the opening life support beeps of ‘The End’ to the closing chants of ‘Famous Last Words’, the album tackles issues touched upon in its predecessors. Catapulting so-called “emo” issues into the mainstream, it has been one of the most important releases in raising awareness of the universal issues that were previously limited by genre.

Sean, 26, Sheffield, says, “For me it’s always the go to record when people just write off that side of “emo” as just whiney people talking about self-harm because it addresses all of that same stuff whilst still being a hugely interesting and musically diverse record in its own right.”

Adorned in the band’s trademark military jackets two years after the album’s release in 2008, fans descended on central London to protest against the Daily Mail’s claims that My Chemical Romance were a “suicide cult band”. Suggesting they had a part to play in the death of 13-year-old Hannah Bond, it was a small-minded attack on a minority; another attempt at division and scandal from the paper. Rather than divide fans, it drew them closer together, driven by music from a band that was unashamedly loud and proud about who they were and what it meant.

Launching My Chemical Romance further into the mainstream, Rob Cavallo (who also produced ‘American Idiot’) made an album that would take the world by storm. Songs like ‘Teenagers’ took the defiant punk attitude of Green Day, who had dominated the previous years with their 2004 release, and shrouded it in darker pop melodies. ‘Famous Last Words’ simple riffs and defiant chorus – “I am not afraid to keep on living, I am not afraid to walk this world alone” – carry a song equal in strength and desperation, epitomising the emo genre.

There’s light in the darkness and hope in the worst of situations, summed up in 13 songs. “It was a fantastically written album that had a strong story and narrative,” says Mitch, 22, Kent. Huge ballads like ‘I Don’t Love You’ strike a chord with many and ‘Cancer’ is one of the only songs as clear-cut about its title subject as it is, Gerard Way’s vocals unstoppable against the sullen piano. Way’s power as a commandeering frontman is evident in any live show or music video. Talk to any fan and they’ll sing his praises – fans of emo aren’t ones for apathy – and cite him as one of their inspirations.

It would seem, however, that ‘Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge’ is still our favourite MCR album. Flossi, 24, London, says, ‘The Black Parade’ was “massively overplayed and not nearly as good as their previous”. A small Twitter poll suggested 56% of people (okay, 54 respondents) would choose it as their favourite, compared to the 31% that chose ‘The Black Parade’.

There is something special about the unashamed performance of tracks like ‘Helena’ and ‘I’m Not Okay’, self-help pop songs for those who needed them most, but ‘The Black Parade’ became emo’s most important album by carrying the genre out of the shadows and into the light – both literally and metaphorically. Just look at the difference in the album covers: first, two lost souls in black and red; second, still a skeleton but one with his head held high, going somewhere.

Intended as a concept album – a rock opera based around the life, death and afterlife of a character known only as The Patient – it became more than a theatrical show and stood as an anthem for the greatest alternative band of the 21st Century. For those of us for whom ‘The Black Parade’ helped as kids, teenagers, or young adults, the album continues to brighten up dark days. Gerard Way has previously said the release could have been the end of the band, feeling “like a very natural end” and what an ending it would have been. While ‘Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys’ was never a bad album, nothing would ever come close to the anthems of one of, if not the, greatest alternative records ever released.

Its memory will carry on.

My Chemical Romance have released a special 10th anniversary edition of the album, ‘The Black Parade/ Living with Ghosts’ available to purchase now. Alongside the original tracks, it includes 11 demos and live recordings.