The Queue is a recurring excuse for me to talk about songs or albums in short form. This week I examine the second-best MCR record, a prog rock classic and a dumb pet theory about a beloved indie track. Let’s investigate.
The Black Parade – My Chemical Romance
It’s not that Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, the 2004 album that soundtracked much of my freshman year of college and which forced everyone I knew to have an opinion on My Chemical Romance, wasn’t melodramatic and theatrical—because it certainly was—but it wasn’t maudlin in the way that “Welcome to the Black Parade” was. That opening single signaled to me that The Black Parade would switch the balance of what made Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge work: Instead of guitar-forward pop-rock with dark, theatrical flourishes, The Black Parade‘s eponymous single promised dark, theater-ready pop with flourishes of guitar-rock. Because of that one song, I decided I didn’t like The Black Parade before the album was even released. But I was an idiot and that’s not what The Black Parade ended up being. In reality, the album has plenty of guitar-rock and only its title track and the cringeworthy “Cancer” are true schlock. A handful of solid riffs aside, the best parts of The Black Parade are those moments when Gerard Way and Co. explore the farthest reaches of their unique brand of weirdness, as in the opening couplet of “The End.” and “Dead!” or the misfit-kid anthem “Teenagers” or, most interestingly, the pure, uncut insanity that is “Mama.” It’ll never mean to me what Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge does, but The Black Parade is a quality record.
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway – Genesis
The final Genesis album before Peter Gabriel left the band to pursue a solo career, 1974’s The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway is a prog rock classic. Critical reviews at the time of its release were mixed but in the years that followed, the double-album telling the bizarre story of a New York boy who falls into a mystical journey of self-discovery came to be regarded as one of the greatest prog albums of all time. The entire record contains sonic landscapes as diverse and varied as the odd elements that make up its narrative and I’ve always regarded the final two songs of the record’s first half, “Carpet Crawlers” and “The Chamber of 32 Doors,” as its best. The former is a gentle, slowly crescendoing pseudo-ballad while the latter is defined, at least for me, by a pre-chorus that features nothing but a simple bass line and Gabriel’s plaintive claim that, “I need someone to believe in, someone to trust.” The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway is an album full of complex brilliance, but that simple line might be its best.
“The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” – The Postal Service
The first song off of the universally beloved Give Up, “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” is phenomenal. The song’s lyrics, which chronicle the dissolution of one of Ben Gibbard’s relationships, are clearly autobiographical and also, given the track’s title and lines like “D.C. sleeps alone tonight,” pretty clearly centered in the geographical District of Columbia. But what if that last part wasn’t true? What if that geography was a cover story? What if some of Ben Gibbard’s friends, in reference to their buddy’s band, called him Death Cab as a nickname? What if they sometimes shortened that to D.C.? What if, in a clever bit of geographical wordplay, they transformed that nickname from D.C. to The District? What if in the song “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” Ben Gibbard was The District? What if he was basically singing “I sleep alone tonight” all along? If all that conjecture proved true then, well, not much would be different at all. It is, as I’ve said, a pretty clearly autobiographical song. But that’d be a sly nickname for Gibbard.