‘Danger Days’: The Same Old Cynicism with a Splash of Color

by Andi Hubbell ‘11

Screeching electric guitar music resonates, and a fiery explosion ensues.

Within a matter of seconds, a brightly painted Trans Am races around the bend of a dusty desert road. A second, sleek black car and motorcade closely follow. The Trans Am’s passengers, the members of My Chemical Romance, promptly put the rainbow-colored ray guns they are toting to use. They shoot at the masked villains pursuing them, and the music video quickly transitions to a slew of shots showcasing the band battling the vampire-faced figures in the middle of the desert. All the while, fast-paced, energetic music continues to blast, accompanied by raw, rough vocals.

The vivid vision created by the music video for “Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na),” the first single off of My Chemical Romance’s new album, is a far cry from any of the band’s previous works. Although My Chemical Romance have always proven theatrical, their music videos are more frequently death-centric than action-packed. However, with the release of their new CD, “Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys,” My Chem has abandoned their traditionally dark lyrics, haunting sound and morbid music videos in favor of something a little more upbeat. While the album’s lack of a cohesive concept may initially be a little disconcerting for those who were fond of their previous albums, its uplifting perspective and lively sound ultimately make “Danger Days” a worthy listen for old and new fans alike.

In the past, My Chemical Romance have been characterized by their affinity for death-based concept albums. Their first album, 2002 “I Brought My Bullets, You Brought Your Love,” thematically follows two star-crossed lovers who, after enduring a series of mishaps, resolve to take their lives. In the same tradition, “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge,” the band’s sophomore album from 2004, details a man’s desperate attempts to reunite with his lover after he is sent to Hell and she remains alive. While both “Bullets” and “Three Cheers” regularly stray from their respective storylines with songs that clearly stem from real-life circumstances (“Honey, This Mirror Isn’t Big Enough for the Two of Us” and “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)”), My Chemical Romance’s 2006 album, “The Black Parade,” fully commits from beginning to end to exploring the pain, regret and nostalgia a young man experiences after learning that he is terminally ill.

After building up to such an in-depth storyline in their third album, it would seem that My Chemical Romance would try to implement an equally intricate theme in their fourth album. Instead, the band produced a concept that is only apparent in their music videos and the sporadic narration that appears every few songs throughout “Danger Days.” The storyline, which outlines the struggles of a group of post apocalyptic rebels dubbed the Killjoys to overthrow a corrupt corporation called Better Living Industries, does not directly appear in the album’s lyrics. In fact, without the supplemental explanations the band has provided in various interviews, it would be next to impossible for a listener to grasp.

Nonetheless, the album’s message proves more successfully executed than that of any of My Chemical Romance’s past albums. Instead of relying entirely on dramatic scenarios and ill-fated characters to convey straight-forward themes about the woes of life and death, the album employs subtle metaphors that express a universal message about taking action. For instance, “Sing,” the album’s second single, advocates standing up against a faceless force, prompting the audience to “raise your voice every time they try to shut your mouth.” Similarly, in “Destroya,” singer Gerard Way declares, “They don’t believe in us, but I believe we’re the enemy,” implying that the oppressed possess power. In contrast to previous albums, “Danger Days” does not simply lament the world’s misfortunes; it encourages listeners to make an active effort to improve their lives through general commentary about initiating change.

“Danger Days” further emphasizes this theme of empowerment through its unexpectedly raucous sound. In earlier My Chemical Romance albums, most notably “Bullets,” Way retains raw, angsty vocals that sometimes prove more reminiscent of screaming than singing. “Danger Days” incorporates a more refined version of these coarse vocals, applying them to both thrashing, violent songs like “Na Na Na,” “Destroya,” and “Vampire Money;” and more dance-worthy numbers like “Party Poison” and “Planetary (Go).”

“Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys” certainly marks a disappearance of many of the qualities have traditionally defined My Chemical Romance. Regardless, veteran fans shouldn’t fret. The cynical, biting outlook that characterizes the band’s previous album’s is still present in “Danger Days.” It is simply countered by positive solutions, which, coupled with the band’s newly energetic sound, make My Chemical Romance’s fourth album well worth the four-year-long wait.