It’s October, which means all things spooky are rising from their graves to haunt the hapless living. Facebook Memories keeps us supplied with a steady diet of ghosts in the form of exes and bad haircuts. But I’d like to resurrect the spookiest thing of all…
Your high school emo phase! (Lightning flashes over the castle turrets! The horses shriek!)
The emo phase infects many poor souls. While it’s not a universal phenomenon, it’s common enough that if it didn’t happen to you, it happened to someone you knew. It happened to someone you loved.
If you know me at all, you know that my emo phase never really ended; it receded and then returned at full force, as unstoppable as the tides. I’m emo trash and I don’t plan to stop. And at the center of the swirling mass of eyeliner and hair dye and black peacoats we find my four first, truest loves and the drummers they can’t keep.
Yes. You guessed right. This is absolutely a column about My Chemical fucking Romance.
I got so much shit in high school for liking this band. My first girlfriend introduced me to them in 2010, shortly after the release of their fourth studio album “Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys.” It was the exact wrong time to get into them, as the cool (read: tall, obnoxious, white) boys in my precalculus class were more than happy to point out. They had all jumped on this train three years prior with the release of “The Black Parade.” And they’d jumped right back off it when they discovered Radiohead or whatever.
“Seriously?” they all asked. “MCR sucks, man, they’re so gay.”
Well, the douchebags in my precalc class were right for once. My Chemical Romance is, in fact, really goddamn gay.
Now, I’m not making any claims about the sexual orientation of the band members; that’s the province of 14-year-olds on DeviantArt. But MCR has undeniable queer roots as a group of artists. It’s not really even a matter of subtext; they wrote a song about prison sex and the lead singer spent a whole tour wearing feather boas and rubbing on his rhythm guitarist.
I call that text. Gay text.
At 15, Gerard Way and Frank Iero offered me a transgressive masculinity that I couldn’t get anywhere else. David Bowie offered something similar, but far more polished, otherworldly and aspirational. Frank and Gerard were messy and accessible. I stocked up on red ties and black button-downs and dreamed of dyeing my hair.
The consistent queer edge to its music and aesthetic keeps MCR relevant and sets them apart from their pop-punk contemporaries. The members wore as much eyeliner in 2005 as Green Day or Fall Out Boy or Panic! At the Disco, but they never wrote about politics or how much the suburbs suck or the girls in high school who never gave them the time of day. Their songs are wracked with guilt, not rage or jealousy.
Across their four albums, they have secrets. They’ve seen and done things that keep them up at night. They think that if they tell you, you’ll never forgive them, but they want that forgiveness so bad that it might be worth it.
I was in the closet for a long time. I still have a lot about me that I have to keep hidden. I’m so grateful to have something to sing along with that is also theatrical, bombastic and fun to headbang to.
This summer, the tumbleweeds cleared from MCR’s official Facebook page, largely inactive since their breakup in 2013. It released a cryptic video of a flag fluttering, with the piano line of “Welcome to the Black Parade” echoing behind it. With this 30-second teaser, MCR broke the goddamn emo internet. Fans were free to speculate — a reunion show? A reunion tour? A new album?
My heart swelled with anticipation of finally, finally getting to see my favorite band. I went to work in my MCR shirt and an embarrassing amount of black eyeshadow. The shirt facilitated my bonding with another former superfan. We reminisced about Gerard’s boas and watching “Life on the Murder Scene” in 10-minute YouTube slices.
In proper emo fashion, it was all hopeless. The band clarified a day later that they had only been teasing a 10th anniversary special release of “The Black Parade.” With demos and unheard material, sure, but we had all been so ready for a resurrection.
On Oct. 23, wish “The Black Parade” a happy birthday, and allow yourself to remember what it was like to love a band so much that a guy from Jersey singing about ghosts felt like salvation.
Frank Iero and his current band were recently involved in a serious bus crash. I wish everyone a speedy recovery.