Sometimes, you’ve just gotta know when to give up. That’s precisely what My Chemical Romance did when recording their highly anticipated fourth studio album, and the result is an interesting one to say the least. Although the group originally declared their intention to strip away the sleek production of their breakthrough album, 2006’s The Black Parade, and release a full length of distorted guitar-driven, Stooges-style punk rock, they reneged considerably on said declaration. That entire album was scrapped in favor of the glossy Danger Days, a record thick with samples and synthesizers, drum loops and vocal harmonies stacked at least a dozen high at points. Back is the tortured emotion that so many mall patrons love to hate and hate to love, only this time it finds itself face to face with bouncing electro-dance tracks and songs about laser beams. Oh, and the album is also hosted by the smooth-talking DJ Dr. Death Defying (Mindless Self Indulgence’s Steve, Righ?) and features a bastardized “Star-Spangled Banner” as it’s penultimate track. These boys keep themselves from going over the top.
It’s entirely possible that My Chem’s aborted Detroit-punk album could have disappointed their dedicated squadron of moody devotees, potentially causing a string of middle-school arsons and spiking the Kansas City teen suicide rate due to lack of musical catharsis. It’s also certainly worth noting, however, that Danger Days best track, “Party Poison,” features singer Gerard Way belting out lyrics about street-walking cheetahs kicking out jams. While influential subtlety may not be their strongest asset, the band have definitely crafted their most diverse album to date and have taken stabs at musical territory a less confident band may have never had the balls to traverse. Two aspects of My Chemical Romance’s genetic makeup have remained steadfast throughout their career; their undying creative ambition and the guts to put those ideas to tape, refusing to rest on their laurels or pander to their many detractors.
Danger Days finds our formerly-gruesome protagonists continuing their march toward with rock greatness, supplying listeners with ample arena-ready anthems (“SING”) and searing tracks like “DESTROYA,” whose fuse burns slow before exploding like an angst-fueled pipe bomb. “Save Yourself, I’ll Hold Them Back” lays claim to an brilliant introductory riff, and album closer “Vampire Money” reinvents the classic rock n’ roll formula for the Twilight generation, sinking it’s teeth into the veins of pop culture and spitting the blood back in the face of a million teenage consumers.
Unfortunately Danger Days is really only great about half of the time, and it’s mostly in the spots where the band sound like they’re just having fun and not trying to sound great. However, those times that they really hit the mark create an even greater impact after absorbing four minutes of twiddling Cure-inspired love-schlock (“Summertime”) or the embarrassing shriek of “The Kids of Yesterday,” a massive-sounding ballad that sounds like the best 30 Seconds To Mars song ever, which is still equivalent to being the most impressive piece of dung in a pachyderm house.
If one thing can be said for sure about this album, Danger Days is the sound of a band pouring everything they’ve got into those (incredibly expensive) studio microphones, and they should be applauded for looking critically at their own work, not just assuming that whatever drivel oozes out of their brains is a potential radio hit. It’s probably for the best that the band that they did scrap their original plans and take the time and effort to re-record this album in the form which it was finally released. Instead of writing what would probably have gone down only as their “punk” album, the world was treated to a grandiose, nearly hour-long rock spectacle that is worthy of their carrying on their theatrical back catalogue, even if it does get caught up in it‘s own extravagance at times. Danger Days may not be the best album in their body of work, but you can’t say they didn’t try.
FYI- For bonus listening check out the three-song Mad Gear and Missile Kid EP, and rapid-fire blast of hard-nosed punk that is supposed to represent the tunes that The Killjoys blast as they cruise through future-deserts picking off Draculoids with cyber-lasers, or whatever. It’s most likely just some songs the band recorded for the scrapped LP, but still a good way for die-hards to kill five minutes. It’s only available with the deluxe box-set version of Danger Days, but here’s to hoping for a full release of those scrapped tracks sometime in the future.