When My Chemical Romance’s colorful concept record Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys came out two years ago, I was torn between whether I liked it or hated it. There were moments on that album when I heard genius (“Sing,” “The Only Hope For Me Is You”), and then there were moments when I couldn’t stand the group’s progression from punk-inspired pop-rock to a rock sound heavily inspired by pop elements (“Bulletproof Heart,” “Planetary: Go!”). Maybe I would’ve been happier with the direction the band took with their original plans in following up 2006’s The Black Parade: the gritty, punk-oriented Conventional Weapons, which was scrapped in 2009 before the band took up the task of creating the eventual follow-up, Danger Days.
So when the band announced that they would be releasing each of the ten tracks off the scrapped album, I had a feeling that these songs would be a lot stronger than much of the material off Danger Days. After hearing the first two songs, “Boy Division” and “Tomorrow’s Money,” I could tell that, though Danger Days thrusted the band to the top of the rock world, Conventional Weapons would’ve been one heck of a record.
The most obvious difference between My Chemical Romance’s sound on these two tracks and their sound on Danger Days is the amount of punk influence in the guitar tones, tempo, and aggression. “Boy Division” is a speedy thrust through riff-oriented verses and into choruses that are just as fast. While many found The Black Parade to have a lot of Queen influence, this track sounds as if all of the band members had just come off a group listening session to MxPx and Bad Religion and applied elements from these groups to their alternative-rooted pop-meets-rock sound.
A lot of the thematics and imagery of The Black Parade’s songwriting are deeply rooted within the song (“He’s not dead, he just looks that way” and the reckless “la la la” near the end bring “Dead!” back to mind), and Gerard Way fires his way through the lyrics like a bullet; his brutish, energetic vocal attack is rather destructive, and, just like it is on all of My Chemical Romance’s albums, quite exuberant. Even with how powerful and dominant the guitars may be, he still finds a way to stand out. Though it’s hard to determine exactly when the verse ends and the chorus starts, “Boy Division” just begs to be played on repeat. This is because the song is a thrilling, energetic, and most of all, vivid adventure through gothic pop-rock, but not without the punk trimmings, of course.
“Tomorrow’s Money” has a more Danger Days-esque, surf-rock flavor, which is a bit odd considering that these guys aren’t from California; they’re from New Jersey. But while this song is more reminiscent of the band’s more recent material than “Boy Division,” it’s still quite heavy. This time, Way’s vocals are not only speedy in their delivery, but they’re often hard to pick apart because his voice is so hard to understand. That’s far from a bad thing; the chorus (“I stopped bleeding three years ago while you keep screaming for revolution”) is the catchiest moment between the two songs, and when the harmonies connect, the moment turns from energetic and fun to almost surreal.
From hearing these two songs, I’m a bit frustrated that My Chemical Romance didn’t take their fourth album in this direction. But you can’t blame the band for Danger Days sounding the way it did; they had a creative burst and a chance to construct a standout album, so why should they have let that slide? I would’ve loved to see the band do more with the Conventional Weapons sound and theme, but I can’t blame them for progressing. At least it’s interesting to see some of the recycled ideas and lyrical themes that made it on to Danger Days in these two songs. There are eight more songs to come, but “Boy Division” and “Tomorrow’s Money” are quite the handful already.