Sound — 7
My Chemical Romance began as a Jersey-based MySpace band with a well-put-together but mostly unseen debut in 2002's "I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love". Extensive touring, recruitment of Motorhead and P.O.D.'s Howard Benson on production, and signing to Reprise Records brought the band explosive success with 2004's "Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge". Blasting an offshoot of pop punk with just a shot of the band's previous post-hardcore, "Three Cheers" introduced a new sound and image for the band, furthering dark imagery of vampires and ghost towns on 2002's "I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love". The result is a macabre party. Carried over from "Bullets" are a few elements crucial to the My Chemical Romance sound: guitarists Ray Toro and Frank Iero duking it out with metal and punk, respectively; over-the-top black humor; and theatrics gradually inching closer to the likes of Pink Floyd and Queen. Several of these are extremely refined since "Bullets", evolving the band's sound into an emo (just don't tell them that) thrill ride. Conceptual imagery is prominent the linear notes are the place to go for most of the story, but some of it is alluded to in the lyrical work, as well. Best of all is a deeper, more violent overall sound. Moments in "Three Cheers" poke laughingly at "Bullets", as though its brother was a childhood play thing. As "Helena" bursts the album's creaking double-doors open, an ante upped in production immediately puts greater emphasis on guitar work, which is significantly more realized than the already interesting debut. At any given time, there are two distinct and reflective guitar parts, with each complimenting the other wonderfully. Toro's implementation of solos and more melodic riffs are essential to songs like "Thank You For The Venom" and hit single "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)". Duality is wonderfully played up in "You Don't Know What They Do To Guys Like Us In Prison", and singer Gerard Way chants sardonically along. "The Ghost Of You" is heavy and haunting, followed closely by the mosh-supreme chorus of "The Jetset Life Is Gonna Kill You" and an ominous "Interlude" into the last stretch of the record. Though the power with which My Chemical Romance Wile-E-Coyotes through the record is clear, there are a few stalls along the way. For one, as on "Bullets", the formula is essentially static throughout. Since this album runs longer than the last, it is a bit more pronounced, but the tone of each song is so even spread across itself that this is almost never a problem. Moments that intrude are typically "Did I hear this solo?" when comparing "To The End" and "Thank You For The Venom" both slow to a stomp, though the melodic differences are vast and each piece's spirit is diverse enough that the similarities end there. "I'm Not Okay" is admittedly radio-ready in some of the worst of ways, even if it presents a sound unlike its contemporaries. "Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge" isn't a fully realized My Chemical Romance, a new and special My Chemical Romance, or the definitive My Chemical Romance. "Three Cheers" is the album that knocks all three out of the park with a declaration that My Chemical Romance can do whatever the hell they want. "The Ghost Of You" is the closest the band comes to a ballad it's one for the funerals, to be certain. "Hang 'Em High" is a Western that barely draws its pistol before firing in the faces of zombies. "Thank You For The Venom" averages five hundred kph. Finally, "I Never Told You What I Do For A Living" ends the roller coaster, as the debut, "in a hail of bullets." From the mournful-but-dangerously-fast "Helena", the album tells you most of what to expect, but it's one hell of a ride.
Lyrics — 7
Where "Three Cheers" advances, there are occasional set-backs, though nothing to get touchy about. A few lyrical weak points are brought over from the previous record, and unlike "Bullets" it becomes harder, as you journey through, to discern just when the band is utterly serious in delving into a seemingly endless well of angst. It's exciting stuff, to be certain, but tracks like "I'm Not Okay" are prematurely tiring, weakening the power of gems such as "The Ghost Of You". Most of the songs are either condescension wrapped in sarcasm or love songs wrapped in anecdotes about car wrecks, but the sheer honesty with which the band cries is more striking than uncomfortable. The lyrical content is generally anthemic or vaguely punk-inspired, especially when paired with exciting instrumentation. Even in its most melodramatic moments, the band invites with evident self-awareness; "Give 'Em Hell, Kid" and "Prison" are sung with winks like "We are young and we don't care/Your dreams and your hopeless hair" and a refrain of "Oh, nobody knows all the trouble I've seen." Hey, if they're being dramatic, they're well aware. It's bizarrely charming. Singer Gerard Way is one of the cruxes of the record, but one fatal flaw throws off moments in "Three Cheers". While Way's vocals are more melodic (some may miss the screaming from "Bullets"), there is also a strange quality to it. From the other releases, it may well be production, but at the worst of times, it sounds as though two very close cuts were stitched other the other. Imagine C-3PO with a slightly less exaggerated effect. It isn't constant, and so may not at all be him (ask Benson), as "The Ghost Of You" suggests. Regardless, the same power which drove him through "Bullets" is present here, and it sounds great. His voice is a high-octane and heavy growl. In places, he finds room for theatricality a missed gem in rock-ish genres across the board and in others for intimacy. Not too shabby an advancement for a sophomore release.
Overall Impression — 7
"Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge" is as violent and as daring as they come, with just the right touch of honesty in all the right places. Its energy trumps even the fantastic "Bullets", and it plays twice as fast at any given time. The emotional moments are more bombast, the sound is just as (if not more) unique, and the personalities are bigger than ever. Particularly of interest are Iero and Toro's guitar work set against Way's alternating melodies and screaming, and Matt Pellisier makes an impressive return on drums. Thematically, the record goes from A to B with ease; it's as if My Chemical Romance was born for the concept album. Most of all, it's just a whole lot of fun. Revenge is truly a dish best served sweet.