The Danger Days of Rock Music

By Kelly Harrass

The other day I was listening to a CD that I’m still surprised that I own, even though it’s become one of my favorites. I’ll fill you in on what that CD is and why I like it so much later. (Good on ya if you know what CD I’m talking about from the title and the picture to the right.)

I’m a lifelong rock fan. Rock music is what I’ve always been attracted to over all other kinds of music. At one point in sixth grade I made a persuasive speech about why Rock was the best genre of music out there. Sadly I lost the class vote for best speech to a girl who gave everybody brownies, but that’s not the point. The point I’m trying to make is that I love rock. I’m a full blown metalhead in these dark times where Justin Bieber makes fifty million dollars in a year. Ugh.

Even though rock is my favorite kind of music, I have to say that I’ve been growing bored with what’s been being produced by the rock industry. In my opinion, right now is one of the worst times to be a rock fan that I’ve heard in my lifetime. Over the past year I began to listen to rap, something that I had never done (and enjoyed) before. I’ve been sticking to the independent scene of rap with artists like Childish Gambino, Odd Future, and Adam WarRock because they do things differently than the mainstream rap acts, which I still dislike for the most part. (On a side note: I listened to Watch the Throne, the new album by Jay-Z and Kanye West. It had some decent tracks, but it wasn’t that great. It felt lazy. Don’t believe the hype.)

Like I was saying before the rappers who have gotten my interest have done so because they sound different than the other rap acts out there. There isn’t much excitement going on in rock for me right now.  A lot of rock and metal sound the same and the country influences that are beginning to leak their way in need to be cut out like a cancer. Too much of metal all sounds the same to me. That’s even the case for some bands that I really like. Just the other day I heard the new single by Five Finger Death Punch; a band that I’ve followed since before they put out their first CD and moderated their Wisconsin fan page on Myspace. When I heard their new song I was absolutely positive that it was something they had done before. It turned out that it wasn’t, it just sounded like it was. As much as I’d like to hear something different I understand why these bands keep producing the same music. It sells and with the industry the way it is, if you have a formula that works, you shouldn’t change it. The current motto for the rock industry might as well be “If you’re making money, don’t do anything new.” One band that did change their formula and tried something new is My Chemical Romance.

Sometime last November or December, Comics Alliance posted a story about the two new My Chemical Romance videos, for the songs Na Na Na and Sing, which featured Batman writer, Grant Morrison, as a villain. From what I remembered I had always liked their videos even if their music wasn’t really something that I liked very much. So I clicked the link, watched the two videos, and was surprised at how much I enjoyed the songs that went with them.

A couple weeks later, a friend and I went out shopping so I could pick out my Christmas gift. I thought “Why not?” and grabbed Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, the new My Chemical Romance CD, off the shelf.

And that brings us back to the beginning of this blog. Danger Days is the CD I’m surprised that I own. I never thought I would ever pick up a CD by My Chemical Romance, but now I’m glad that I did. The first time I listened to Danger Days I was blown away by how much I loved it. They completely changed their sound. The days of the brooding emo rock are gone and they’ve been replaced with something different, something unique.

If I had to nail down the sound for the album I’d call it Post-Apocalyptic Punk. It has the anger (against being labeled as emo and how some, including myself, dismissed their music) and power of punk music. It’s very synthy and may be almost as poppy as it is punk. The music is infused with sci-fi and fantasy influences. I’ve described it before as listening to a comic book.

Danger Days is a loose concept album. It does more world building than it does tell a story. You are occasionally guided through the songs by DJ Dr. Death Defying, but beyond that the album doesn’t tell a cohesive story. You know something has happened to change the world and you know the heroes, the Killjoys, of this world are on the run from a mysterious corporation. Beyond that, you’re left to fill in the blanks. They don’t force a story into the music, which is what usually kills a concept album in my eyes.

My Chemical Romance took a huge gamble on Danger Days. It could easily have gone badly and could have alienated their current fan base. Luckily, for their sake, the gamble paid off. They managed to keep most of their current fans and managed to bring in some new fans, including myself. I hugely respect what they did because they did something that we don’t see a lot of in mainstream rock; they did what they wanted to do. That’s what music needs. Instead of trying to do something a certain audience would like or trying to write hits, they made music that they wanted to make. In doing some research for this blog I found out that my favorite song on the album, Vampire Money, was written in response to being asked to be a part of the Twilight soundtrack and turning it down. They knew that there were giant piles of money to be made from making a song for the movie, but they turned it down because they don’t want to be associated with the Twilight franchise. That’s something that many bands played on rock radio did not do.

Danger Days is something different, it’s something fun, and it’s something keeping me interested in what is a fairly boring state of the rock industry. When you hear the name My Chemical Romance, Danger Days isn’t the album that you expect to hear. Leave your preconceptions of the band at the door and give it a listen. What you hear might surprise you.

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2 responses to “The Danger Days of Rock Music

  1. Pingback: My Chemical Romance » The Danger Days of Rock Music | Cracking the Books

  2. Pingback: Rock Music News » Blog Archive » The Danger Days of Rock Music | Cracking the Books

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