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The Top 15 Songs of My Chemical Romance

It's been more than a year since My Chemical Romance decided to lay down their instruments, and PopMatters looks back on some of their finest moments.

My Chemical Romance was a band that was doomed from the start. From their manic 2002 debut (I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love) to their final escape off into the sunset (Danger Days), MCR always sounded like a steam engine careening off of a cliff. Lead singer and showman Gerard Way’s unhinged vocal style felt fresh out of an asylum, complimenting his macabre, twisted imagery. The band never quite fit into any genre or anywhere in general. And that was perfectly fine by them.

Eternally the outsiders, My Chemical Romance always played by their own rules above all else. Constantly slapped with the “emo” categorization (a label that the band particularly loathed), My Chemical Romance were in reality the spirit of punk rock incarnate. Their identity was in perpetual flux (particularly during the latter part of their careers), re-envisioning themselves for every album, never content to stay the same. They shoved the very boundaries of what “punk” could mean.

A little more than a year has passed since Way announced that My Chemical Romance was hanging up their coats for good. With five distinct albums to their name, the band left us with a concise but impactful discography that warrants repeated listens. This week Way released his solo debut Hesitant Alien which sees him follow a more Britpop route, while the remainder of the group (Ray Toro, Frank Iero, and Mikey Way) all have projects due out in the near future. Perhaps there is life after MCR. But it’s impossible to forget the music they’ve left us with from the years they brought their talents (and angst) together.

 

15. “Make Room!!!!”
(Conventional Weapons, 2013)

You have no choice but to pay attention to Way and Co. as they make themselves the lives of the party on “Make Room!!!!”. Their snot-nosed attitudes and searing guitars put a vice grip on center stage and refuse to let go. It’s hard to comprehend that this song (and Conventional Weapons as a whole) was never intended to see the light of day, especially when this is one of their most animated moments on record.

 

14. “You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us in Prison”
(Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, 2004)

On Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, MCR rarely used the quiet-to-loud aesthetic as effectively as they do on this track. What opens with a delicate, staccato piano soon spirals into all-out chaos. If “life is but a dream” according to the lyrics, the band make existence sound like an absolute nightmare.

 

13. “I Don’t Love You”
( The Black Parade, 2006)

Leave it to MCR to make an anti-love song ring as potently as an ode to a significant other. With laid-back drums and a guitar opening that’s reminiscent of Coldplay’s “Yellow” (albeit a tad more forceful), Way lyrically parts ways with a lover.

 

12. “Our Lady of Sorrows”
(I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, 2002)

There was an early gift for melody buried underneath the rapid-fire guitars and Way’s throaty screaming. During the recording process for their gritty debut, I Brought You My Bullets…, the frontman suffered from a tooth abcess, making his howls on the track all the more authentic. Running just over two minutes, the entire band sounds like they’re sprinting for their lives.

 

11. “Mama”
( The Black Parade, 2006)

The gothic “Mama” sounds like it could be part of the soundtrack for a musical directed by Tim Burton (hell, even Broadway veteran Liza Minnelli makes a cameo). Vaudevillian verses mesh with a rousing, fiery chorus that’s vintage MCR. It’s hard to distinguish initially, but the verses fall into a traditional blues pattern that make this tune sound all the more like a haunting folk song.

 

10. “House of Wolves”
( The Black Parade, 2006)

Is it just me or does it sound like Way is grinning maniacally when singing some of his gloomiest songs? Look no further than “House of Wolves” to illustrate my point. Way yawps as if he’s a frenzied pastor preaching to a choir. Scorched guitars and menacing drums make this garage rock from Hell.

 

9. “Planetary (Go!)”
(Danger Days, 2010)

Yes, your hearing is correct — that’s a dance beat. A neon sheen illuminates the majority of Danger Days, but the songs on the album never relinquish the sharpened edge that MCR developed over the course of the records prior to its release. With all of their cylinders fully functioning. “Planetary (Go!)” finds the band cranking their music into hyperdrive.

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8. “Cancer”
( The Black Parade, 2006)

It’s just Way and piano that kicks off the most affecting ballad in MCR’s repertoire. Playing directly into the overarching concept of The Black Parade, “Cancer” unfolds with a dreary scene of the record’s protagonist saying his goodbyes from a hospital bed. Way nails the pinpoint details of his family in the hospice unit gathering around.

 

7. “Gun”
(Conventional Weapons, 2013)

In the five-year interim between The Black Parade and Danger Days, the band recorded an entire record that was ultimately completely scrapped. Beginning in 2012 and ending in 2013, MCR slowly released the album to the world as Conventional Weapons. A garagey collection that drew from their background and clearly set the ground plan for their proper final album in 2010, Conventional Weapons finds the band shedding most of the operatic turns on The Black Parade and going back to their roots. “Gun”, perhaps the record’s most infectious track, is equal parts social commentary and a take-no-prisoners rocker. “Well if I’m old enough to die for your mistakes / Then let’s go”, sings Way on an unforgettable chorus that throws all caution to the wind. With all of its swagger, “Gun” zooms through the frame like the band on a nostalgic joy ride.

 

6. “Dead!”
(The Black Parade, 2006)

When it comes to passing on to the Great Beyond, My Chemical Romance has always looked at our final moments with a tongue firmly in cheek. The band has never demonstrated this attitude as firmly than on the second track from The Black Parade, “Dead!”. “If life ain’t just a joke, then why are we laughing?” sings Way, barking like a disturbed ringmaster. If any other vocalist were to sing a quip like this, it would come across as merely bleak. Way’s sneering outlook discovers the humor that awaits us at the end of it all.

 

5. “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)”
( Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, 2004)

MCR’s ultimate “misunderstood” anthem, “I’m Not Okay” bunches all of the band’s early angst and unleashes it in a breezy pop-punk package. With an anxiety-ridden chorus this direct and to the point, you’d think it would fall into whiny territory. Not the case here. Frank Iero and Ray Toro’s guitars ensure the song is consistently propelled forward and never wallowing in its own self-pity. When Way rambles like a madman at the song’s climax and then asks us to “trust [him]”, and that he’s doing just fine, it raises more than a few eyebrows and questions (in the best way possible).

 

4. “Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)”
(Danger Days, 2010)

Despite the maddeningly verbose title, “Na Na Na…” might be the most annoyingly simple yet catchy chorus in the band’s arsenal. The fist-pumping track jump starts MCR’s nitrogen-fueled final album, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, and ushers us into the desolate post-apocalyptic landscape filled with laser guns and highway chases. If there’s a track that makes the future sound as “bulletproof” as the narrator promises in the intro to the record, this is it.

 

3. “Welcome to the Black Parade”
(The Black Parade, 2006)

Nothing on MCR’s third studio album reaches quite as grandiose heights as the bombastic title track. The band combined everything they had learned previously from their hardcore outings and matched it with the theatricality of Queen. “Welcome to the Black Parade” guided MCR through the transition from small punk clubs and into arenas across the globe. From Way’s stadium-sized vocals to the high-velocity mid-section to the marching snares that close out the track, “Welcome to yhe Black Parade” is not only the high point of the album, but the apex of My Chemical Romance’s career up to that moment back in 2006.

 

2. “Helena”
(Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, 2004)

Immortalized by its funereal video that received heavy rotation on MTV, “Helena” as a standalone track from their sophomore album that is still a tour de force. Way’s chilling poetic lyrics makes this music Edgar Allan Poe would have listened to if he were still alive and kicking. During the bridge, the frontman’s voice wavers as if he’s deluged in a downpour while drummer Bob Bryar’s toms ominously roll over him. On a side note, someone should have given Way an Academy Award nomination for his show-stopping performance in the video (or an Emmy nom at the very least).

 

1. “The Kids of Yesterday”
(Danger Days, 2010)

An unintentional eulogy for the band as well the track that concludes the narrative of Danger Days, “The Kids of Yesterday” is simultaneously reflective and ready to spit on the past at the same time. With the knowledge that we now bear of this being the group’s final record, it’s difficult to take in a line like “This could be the last of all the rides we take / So hold on tight and don’t look back” and not ponder if somewhere in the back of Way’s mind he knew MCR had come to a close. Not only are the lyrics provocative (in particular, that poignant chorus), but the words encapsulate all of the band’s sentiments from their discography into one massive musical sendoff.

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