With the volume of music that I listen to, the volume of music available in the world, and the limits that I have in time and money that prevent me from exploring it as thoroughly as I’d like, I frequently wind up behind the curve, picking up on artists and albums ages after they’ve come and gone for the rest of the world. I don’t particularly mind this; it’s nice to share music with others and be listening to something that’s presently relevant, but it’s also nice to enjoy music in more of a vacuum.
Despite having obtained My Chemical Romance’s second full-length album back when it first came out, this “behind the curve” effect took its toll on me with the band’s music. It wasn’t until a while after they had broken up in 2013 that I actually found the time and motivation to look into their other endeavors. But once I obtained their last full-length release, the 2012 album Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys, I’ve found that it’s one I can’t put down.
Framed within radio transmissions from “Dr. Death Defying,” Danger Days is a concept album telling the story of rebels (“Killjoys”) living in a post-apocalyptic California. The album is extremely versatile, making for an incredibly enjoyable experience if listened to straight through while also giving the songs their own individual enjoyment and value.
The content is not precisely what one would expect given the band’s previous work. It contains similar lyrical themes and they’ve retained their aggressive drive within the music itself, so nobody who’s familiar with them will be stumped about who’s playing. But on the whole, the album is not quite as heavy as previous releases.
That is by no means an indication that Danger Days disappoints; My Chemical Romance pulls off the shift with aplomb, creating an energizing 15-track album that clocks in at about 54 minutes long. The three narrative tracks within it help immerse the listener in the post-apocalyptic narrative they paint, and pop-punk music with Way’s raw vocals create a powerful atmosphere that’ll have you wanting to jump out of your seat, or at least tap your feet along to the beat.
Despite being the tale of a post-apocalyptic world, the album’s lyrics are filled with rebellion, determination, and hope. The humorously titled “Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)” kicks off the album with such drive that it’s hard not to get caught up in the energy, closing off with a bang after Way sings, “I’d rather go to Hell than be in purgatory.” Songs like “Bulletproof Heart” and “Planetary (Go!)” maintain a similar atmosphere. “Sing” has that same fortitude, but additionally bears a brand of hope that is particularly motivational and empowering.
The album touches on love with songs like “Save Yourself, I’ll Hold Them Back” and “The Only Hope For Me Is You,” specifically speaking to the persistence of love even when suppressed or threatened by hard circumstances. The latter is particularly effective, creating a strong contrast in its relatively soft verses and the booming choruses, all accented by synths.
Slower, quieter tracks include “S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W” and “Summertime,” both of which helping to create a balance in the album without feeling out-of-place or bringing the energy to a stop. On the flipside, if you’re on the hunt for the heavier tracks, look to “DESTROYA,” an aggressive anthem making use of guitar distortions and near-screaming from Way, and “Vampire Money,” a fast-paced, all-out fun song with spiteful lyrics that were the band’s reaction to being asked to write a song for the Twilight franchise. The latter is certainly what strikes me as the song most reminiscent of the general style of their past albums.
The standout of the album, for my part, is the mournful track, “The Kids From Yesterday.” While sad in its powerful reflection of, “You only hear the music when your heart begins to break,” and the general near-farewell nature of the song, it doesn’t stray far from the album’s overall energy. The prominent drumbeat contributes to the sense of determination present throughout much of the song, such as when it insists, “Here we are and we won’t stop breathing / yell it out ‘til your heart stops beating,” or in its rebellion and refusal to disappear as it declares, “We are the kids from yesterday, today.” The song contains an extra degree of poignancy when it’s considered that it was one of the final tracks on the band’s final full-length album, and their last single prior to announcing their split, though I can’t say whether the song’s proximity to their breakup was coincidence or not.
If you’re looking for a calm, relaxing experience, Danger Days isn’t going to give you that, and if you’re the kind of person who’s averse to strong language, you should certainly heed the album’s content warning, as it drops more than a few f-bombs. But if you’re looking for lively music that’ll fill you with confidence and motivation, if you want an album that’s loud and isn’t afraid to rock out, or if you’re looking for music that tells an interesting story about overcoming difficulties and finding hope in a time of hopelessness, Danger Days is a fantastic album that’s worth your time.