Think of the most thunderous choruses to ever infect your life: “(I Just) Died in Your Arms,” “You Give Love a Bad Name,” “Wild Boys.” Mix them with the gaudiest arrangements imaginable: Bat out of Hell, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “November Rain.” And steamroll over everything with more guitars. Then multiply. The Black Parade is My Chemical Romance’s skyscraping bid to set themselves apart from their emo-punk Warped Tour peers; even 2004’s stadium-ready single “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” (off the equally bombastic Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge) sounds like a puny demo next to the laser-light-show grandeur of this ostensible concept album (about the hot-button issue of . . . mortality!). It begins with “The End,” which modestly starts as an acoustic lament (“Come one, come all, to this tragic affair”) until explosions of guitar, orchestra, and choir scale the heights of The Wall. What Pink Floyd spent four album sides working toward, My Chemical Romance have dispensed with in a two-minute prelude.
From there, it’s all one-upmanship: horn sections, tympani, guest vocalist Liza Minnelli (!?!). As stout-voiced frontman Gerard Way struts, sneers, and occasionally sniffles, the rest of MCR lock into a gallop, seldom meeting a guitar line they don’t want to stack to the ceiling. “This Is How I Disappear” and “The Sharpest Lives” drop cluster bombs of harmony; “Dead” quotes the theme to Woody Woodpecker cartoons. And every tune sounds like a closing-credits march toward victory. For all that sonic triumph, the lyrics feel like an empty gesture, sub–Trapper Keeper woe-mongering that’ll thrill suburban teens but sounds odd coming from guys old enough to know better. Way is 29—already past the age at which Bowie buried Ziggy—but he’s still painting himself as a superhero, singing about vampires and generally inhabiting the persona of an angry teenager. “If you’re troubled and hurt/What you got under your shirt/Will make them pay for the things that they did” is too Trenchcoat Mafia for comfort. The Black Parade‘s stubborn fits of juvenilia function as a kind of musical Logan’s Run for its audience, definitively separating the boys from the men. But even those doomed to adulthood are susceptible to hooks.