In 2004, the emo revolution was in full swing. The Used’s game changing debut had made good on Thursday’s promise and shifted the focus of an entire genre; AFI, Poison The Well and Thrice had released their major label debuts to varying success and the cultural ground zero, Warped Tour, had seemingly changed overnight from major key skate punk to a screaming post-hardcore madness. In Australia, fingerless gloves were very popular, even in the middle of summer, and everyone owned some piece of Nightmare Before Christmas merch. Every. One.
With the passage of time, it’s difficult to recall the absolute masses of bands playing, what at the time was, a new and exciting emotional spin on punk rock. And when we say masses, we mean it – Matchbook Romance, A Static Lullaby, Finch, Nightmare Of You, The Hot Lies, Something With Numbers, In The Grey, Senses Fail, Saosin, the list goes on (and on and on). Amidst this backdrop, My Chemical Romance’s 2002 debut I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love hadn’t exactly set the world on fire. Released on a local New Jersey label, Eyeball, its main claim to fame is showing off a production credit from Thursday’s Geoff Rickly, and demonstrating the band’s deeper-than-most appreciation for the macabre drama of fellow garden state horror punk godfathers The Misfits (rather than just repping their crimson skull logo tees, the de rigueur uniform of the era.)
However with Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, the band levelled up – a new producer in Howard Benson (POD, Sepultura and ahhh… Crazy Town), a new label in Reprise Records and most importantly, a laser sharp focus on delivering their vision to the masses.
My Chemical Romance mined deeper veins of rock’n’roll roots for inspiration than your garden variety screamo act, both visually and musically, which paired with vocalist Gerard Way’s grandiose narrative themes pulled from his concurrent interests in comic books made for an unstoppable combination. This set them well apart from the Warped Tour crowds of tees, tight jeans and floppy haircuts, more Kiss and Bowie than From First To Last and Story Of The Year.
The band’s musical output, spearheaded by shredding lead guitarist Ray Toro and Way’s alternating strangled yelp and pained croon, was tapping into classic rock chops and hair metal skill rather than rehashed Blink-182 riffs with obvious breakdowns. Thank You For The Venom is re-purposed Judas Priest, Hang Em High is Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns through the lens of basement punk rock shows and You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us In Prison is a Bonnie and Clyde cabaret performance by two escaped mental patients.
On top of this convention breaking was the magic ingredient – My Chemical Romance was not just a band, but a way of life for their rabid and ever-growing fanbase. The loose concept of the “demolition lovers”, the consistent aesthetic of black suits, red ties and make up, and the fully realised grandeur of their pre-Youtube, constant Channel V rotation music videos for Helena, I’m Not OK and Ghost Of You invited listeners into their world - cartoon character heroes, not a couple of dudes in a band.
Perhaps it was just timing, but it felt like Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge was the catalyst for taking the (rightly or wrongly labelled) emo movement from the fringes (pun not intended) to the centre of youth culture for a hot minute.
15 years later and that influence is still being felt in all manner of ways. There are plenty of clones of popular bands, but can you really think of a band that managed to replicate what My Chemical Romance did with Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge? Modern acts carrying the torch abound. The aesthetic of As It Is, the theatrics of Palaye Royale and the progressive tendencies of Hellions all bear hallmarks of Three Cheers...' bombast. But it doesn’t end with guitar bands, Three Cheers…' power spread far beyond – current teen angst queen Halsey tweeted a picture of herself at the 2018 Billboard Awards with the caption “my-chemical-romance-Helena.mp3”, and even a cursory listen to her recent singles Nightmare and Without Me reveal a soul that’s clearly been touched by Gerard Way’s tortured lyrics. Helena and I’m Not OK are generational anthems on the same level as Dammit and American Idiot and still inspire both mass singalongs at emo nights and memes aplenty (the Cardi B mashup “Im not okurrr” one is our favourite).
And now, we've finally scored that reunion that we truly deserve. The roll-out for the 10th anniversary Welcome To The Black Parade re-issue cruelly got hopes up earlier this year; and since then Gerard Way has been crushing it on Netflix with his Umbrella Academy adaption whilst Frank Iero has just released his latest solo record, Barriers. And earlier this year as this album celebrated 15 years, Joe Jonas of all people said he apparently heard My Chemical Romance rehearsing in the studio next door. Now, the band have finally announced their return with a slew of shows around the world and lucky for us, a headline slot at Download Festival Australia this March.