My Chemical Romance – A Look Back At The Revenge Era

written by Owen Jeffreys

I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love was toured by MCR and after having played many shows and opening for The Used, Schechter took over as manager of the band, and in 2003 MCR was noticed and signed on by Reprise Records – a major record label connected to Warner Bros. This was a huge step into the world for My 6f41fb415026a5442e36fd494a1216c8--my-chemical-romance-wallpaper-random-stuffChemical Romance. Their new album Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge was released in June 2004. This was the bands’ first concept album that told a story and hit their audience visually. The album artwork was produced by Gerard himself and he said the album was a “pseudo-conceptual horror story”. The concept for this album is that a man, thought to be one of the ‘Demolition Lovers’ from their first album, is gunned down in a fight, but makes a deal with the Devil that if he brings him the souls of a thousand evil men, his life will be restored and he’ll be reunited with his love – otherwise, he gets dragged to hell and will never see his lover again. In an interview in 2004, Way described the concept to be more about “loss and real life more than anything.”

Shortly after MCR’s first tour of Japan in 2004, drummer Matt Pelissier was instructed to leave the band by their manager due to burning the early tour bus that was purchased by Gerard’s Grandmother for the band. Bob Bryar replaced Matt halfway through 2004. Bryar was a great drummer, having a slightly different playing style to Matt, where his drums are not set up like a traditional drum kit. Matt was a very fast-paced drummer that can be seen through the studio versions of MCR’s first two albums. This didn’t really affect the band at all when it came to touring however, Bob would sometimes struggle to play one of the fan favourites, ‘Our Lady Of Sorrows’ when asked for by the audience.

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Bert McCracken of The Used and Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance perform “Under Pressure” at the Long Beach Arena in Long Beach, California.

Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge is like a hybrid in genre, hitting emotionally but it has that fast-paced angst and drive in the album that is a mix of pop punk, emo and post-hardcore. The breakdowns and change of the song layouts really make it unpredictable which keeps it fresh. One of the biggest things that hit me with MCR, but aimed more at this album is that Ray Toro and Frank Iero work phenomenally together; their riffs and melodies combine in different ways so the audience can hear more beauty from the instruments the more it is listened to. The lyrics on the album are outstanding too. Gerard had a very poetic writing style and the quality of it makes it stand out. The lyrics from the song ‘Helena’ were, “We’ll meet again when both our cars collide.” These lyrics have a deep meaning, as the song was written about Mikey and Gerard Ways Grandmother who passed away. “When I was a kid, I realised everyone dies,” Gerard says, explaining why the album has such a romantic view on death, “I realised I wouldn’t have my parents, I wouldn’t have anybody else and I’d probably end up alone and I’d even die.”

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The funniest thing about Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge is that the label and I had agreed that if we could sell 300,000 copies we would be happy, and then you know, the first week of sales I had predicted 3000 and we had no idea what was gonna happen, in the very first day we kept getting phone calls about how great things were going and I think right about then is when we realised something weird was going to happen. The fact that the very first day had sold twice as many as the previous record had sold in it’s whole lifespan at that point, I think we realised that something big was about to happen. You know, they just continued working through the summer and then it was just a flood of good news, they sold like 120,000 records through that summer.
Brian Schechter – Life On The Murder Scene – 2006

 

My Chemical Romance released ‘I’m Not Okay (I Promise)’, ‘Helena’, ‘The Ghost of You’ as singles before the album release. ‘I’m Not Okay (I Promise)’ and ‘Helena’ are two of the songs that hit the media massively and is some fans favourites to this day. Geoff Rickly (producer of My Chemical Romance’s, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love) recently spoke to Alternative Press about his band (Thursday) and how they battled through being successful. He saw MCR’s rise and he explains how he was so confused on what they were doing and why it was doing so well and what Thursday was missing. “When I heard the first single, which was ‘I’m Not OK,’ I said, ‘Guys, even the single is wimpy and weird; I don’t even like it that much,’ and they were so hurt. We didn’t talk for a week, but they sent me the record [Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge] and I heard the first song, ‘Helena,’ and I was like, ‘Holy shit, why wasn’t this the single? This is pretty great.’And then I was thinking, ‘It’s a shame the label probably doesn’t care about them because this song could be huge.” ‘Helena’ later on was released as a music video on October 22, 2006. He later goes on to say “So then I realised that, yeah, all the stuff dsc-0022-2Thursday said we wouldn’t be and wouldn’t do, My Chem had done with a little twist of sarcasm and a trace of their own uniqueness, putting their spin on it in a way [and] saying, ‘This is what we wanted the whole time.’ I said I didn’t want it; they said they did want it…They got it; I didn’t. We both got what we wanted.” He begins to laugh. “I should be happy.”

The thing about this album is that every song is perfected. Every song had 100% effort put into it, and some of the fan-favourites back that up. ‘Thank You for the Venom’, ‘You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us in Prison’ and ‘It’s Not a Fashion Statement, It’s a Deathwish’ are songs that followed MCR tours for years, and in my eyes aren’t recognised enough due to the overwhelming success of ‘Helena’ and ‘I’m Not Okay (I Promise)’. In an interview with Metal Underground, Gerard Way talks a little about why Three Cheers came together in a more crisp, produced and fluent way compared to the raw and mismatched sound of Bullets: “We had a lot more time to do it. We had a lot more time to write it and we got to develop as a band, really find out who we were before we made another record. On this first record, we had only been a band for 3 months.”

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Lyrically we wanted to take music to a place that it hadn’t been in a long time, which was to tell stories and use kind of these sweeping metaphors instead of just, ‘You broke my heart’.
Gerard Way – Life On The Murder Scene – 2006

My Chemical Romance stated that every album, and every song put out there, must have 100% of their effort put into. If they weren’t happy with something that could have done with improving, it was agreed there is no point releasing it until it is perfected. To back up that point, on the album ‘The Black Parade’ (which is the next album I will be looking at), one of MCR’s biggest song, ‘Welcome to the Black Parade’ started developing during the writing of Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge. The song took 5 years to finalise!

Some people may not be MCR’s biggest fan, you will get an audience where only the hits on the radio or TV will get a reaction from them. However because this album is given life and a story, people who would maybe check out the band will indulge in what not all albums do, and that is to take the listener on a journey. This album is a favourite for a majority of the fanbase, and even a favourite to the generic alternative rock listeners. The band started to change their visual appeal on stage not long after Three Cheers started being toured. Three Cheers featured a black, white and red colour theme, and MCR would often dress in shirts with red ties and bulletproof vests. It was with this uniformed look that MCR introduced, the band started to develop a more devoted fanbase. MCR had younger influences from The Misfits, Iron Maiden, and Queen, and therefore you can really see why they wanted to give the album an image through visuals and audio. Putting all of his being into his writing, the band took off almost instantaneously. During this time, Gerard relied heavily on substance abuse whilst struggling with depression. After a suicidal breakdown during an early Japanese tour in 2004, Gerard got back to the States to see his therapist who suggested “Brian Eno’s [ambient classic] Music For Airports.” According to Gerard, his therapist said, “it’s gonna calm you the f- down.” It was this experience that brought Gerard back to reality, into AA and returning to the tour days later with a clear mind.

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I was like, ‘I think I could run with this ‘Demolition Lovers’ thing’. I just felt like there needed to be this tragic, romantic, violent aspect going on in there. So I kind of married two subjects, love and revenge, and just added a slight supernatural element to that and was able to come up with basically what I think is a good metaphor for how this band operates and how we live our lives and how we feel you should live your life.
Gerard Way – 2004/2005

‘I’m Not Okay (I Promise)’ was the lead single to be released on Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge in September 2004. This was the bands’ first music video shoot on the album and their first proper music video which had a good amount of money put into it. The MTV music video is the band acting as high school students against bullies, whilst cutting between a performance of the song. The video was named #1 on Fuse’s 25 Greatest Videos Countdown, beating out other videos such as ‘Basket Case’ by Green Day and ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ by Nirvana. This song actually took me a while to get into, however, the more I listened to it the more I would pick up on its catchy chorus and its energetic instruments. Bob Bryar who joined the band in 2004, was a sound technician for The Used previously and after being offered the position in MCR, flew to New Jersey from the Project Revolution festival. Bryar could only fit in 2 nights of band practice before featuring in the MTV music video without even playing a live show yet!

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‘Give Em Hell Kid’ is another song that doesn’t get much media attention, despite its massive deliverance of high energy. When the song kicks in after the crunchy bass riff, it really packs a punch with distorted vocal effects of Gerard that gives it a heavy, dirty and catchy tone. ‘Give Em Hell Kid’ is told from the perspective of the primary narrator’s lover as she is unaware that her partner has made a deal with the devil, and she is missing him. Gerard tweeted in 2013 “Give ‘Em Hell- hands down my fav song to play live. It’s like riding a cruise missile. The demo version had “fake french” in it. I still miss it.” Mikey responded with “that was my favourite to play live too! Face melter – to the tenth power #MCRForever”. The title of the song is also linked to rhythm guitarist Frank Iero who stated, “You know, it is weird, but I refer to everybody as ‘kids’. It’s just something that I say. It’s like a term of endearment. When I say ‘kids’ or something like that, I don’t really have an age bracket set to that term. I think, the message of the band is very universal. It’s to find a spark within yourself that makes you wanna get up every day and make this world a better place. And that is really why we started the band.”

The Song ‘Thank You For The Venom’, is definitely one of the heavier tracks on the record, with Ray opening up with a complex finger flexing riff. “Merci pour le venin” which means ‘Thank You For The Venom’ in French, is written on the sleeve of MMCR previous album, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love.
mcr_leeds05_12Gerard Way stated that the song is a comment on music at the time as well, “a lot of fear mixed in with self-loathing”. This song is a message to critics that the band is not making music just to be famous, but they want their fans to be part of it too. It is also very well known for being a song that inspires people to “not give up” and do something with their lives instead of taking their own. Despite the dark lyrics in the album, My Chemical Romance has been known for their positive undertones and messages, always telling fans to be themselves, believe in themselves, follow their hearts, do what they love and to never take their own lives.

The next song on the album is ‘Hang ‘Em High’, titled after the 1968 film starring Clint Eastwood. It opens up with a wild west style intro, the song then hits hard with all instruments playing overtime. ‘Hang ‘Em High’ is the western version of the story. The main protagonist of the song is a “Shotgun Sinner” who has great aim. He falls in love with a lady who one day mcr_leeds05_3dies of a misfire from himself, thus leading the Shotgun Sinner to take his own life. When he says, “Got you in my sights” he is talking about this lady and how his only goal is to get through these thousand demons to be with her again. The reason I love this song on the album is because of it’s unique wild west fast-paced emo/punk sound. The theme really strikes out in the song, and you can feel the intensity of a wild west gunfight portrayed by the high tempo instruments. ‘Hang ‘Em High’ is a song that proves this album provides diversity throughout.

‘It’s Not A Fashion Statement, It’s a Fucking Deathwish’ is definitely in my top 3 for this tumblr_nmrb816TRe1tzjcb8o1_540album. This song is mostly referenced to revenge, the opening lines “For what you did to me, And what I’ll do to you, You get, what everyone else gets, You get a lifetime”, are a direct quote from Neil Gaiman’s graphic novels The Sandman, spoken by the character Death. The song is drawn out for its main bridge to hit near the end, the combination of the lyrics and the way it is sung by Gerard, makes it one of my favourite snippets on the album. Gerard tweeted “Fashion Statement”- probably my favourite off the album. The first songf70719fd88b6774710d84d337cf82a6d-comic-books-comic-art we wrote a week after finishing Bullets. The song sounds amazing on the record because it is fluent in sound, Gerard responded to a tweet from a fan who said, “Such a demanding song, god bless your vocal chords.” with “By far the hardest song to sing live, even harder than WTTBP. It never relents.”

The album finishes on ‘I Never Told You What I do For A Living’. Out of all of the songs on the record, this song fits the albums concept the most. The song and its lyrics conclude the story that began in last track of Bullets,  ‘Demolition Lovers’. It is a very well produced song with soft melodies to heavy drops, it provides a great variety and diversity in instrument usage. Both instrumentally and lyrically, the writing is beautifully poetic, and it is another song I – and many others from the MCR fanverse truly adore on the album.

Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge brought out a new, twisted version of the punk/emo genre and really brought it to life. It took a big part in the way that rock music was evolving at that time. The album would attract a younger generation and give them a taste of MCR’s favourite bands in the past, turning the past into a new kind of fashion trend. The album was definitely a kick starter for My Chemical Romance, and an album that will live on with alternative music listeners for years to come.

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