Whereas 2006’s The Black Parade propelled the band to arena-filling, eyeliner-donning hero status with its dark, angsty blend of edgy emo rock and poppy goth flair, Danger Days finds the band charging into new territory with precisely-executed abandon.
The album, a “theme album” that purports to be a radio transmission from 2019 after the world ended or something, gives the band room to explore different styles and melodies, all the while refusing to adhere to the “MCR sound” that made them so popular.
Here, the band is the “Fabulous Killjoys”, outlaws battling an evil corporation of some sort.
After a lead-in intro radio transmission calling for the Killjoys to “make some noise!”, single Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na) takes over, with its in-your-face hook and catchy aggression. The song serves as the band’s “Hey, we’re different now, deal with it!” declaration, a middle-finger to the face presented in a familiar childhood playground taunt. The energy doesn’t let up for the entirety of the song, and the blistering guitar solo toward the end caps it all off.
Bulletproof Heart is less abrasive than Na Na Na, but it’s also one of the catchiest moments on the record. The guitar riffs are not unlike the sort you’d hear on a Green Day record, which isn’t surprising considering Rob Cavallo produced this album as well as almost every Green Day record to date. Vocalist Gerard Way’s yells of Gravity/don’t mean too much to me are pretty infectious, as are Ray Toro’s exquisite guitar leads. Production-wise, the song explodes with laser sounds, cascading backup vocals, and an incessantly engaging refrain. It’s one of the brightest moments on the album.
As with most “concept albums”, it’s usually easy to get lost in the music and fail to notice lyrical themes and all that stuff. With Danger Days, there’s so much melody and crashing drums and top-notch production that the themes may get lost in translation, but the first five tracks all incorporate a theme of moving and running. On Bulletproof Heart, for example, Way says we have to run away from here because these pigs are after me, and that theme continues in Sing.
It’s a more subdued song than the previous two, with some tender piano touches accentuating the drum beat and Way’s vocals. The whole feel of the song is reminiscent of Lostprophets, especially songs like Rooftops and Last Train Home, with that super-epic buildup and exploding chorus thing going for it. The song has a great atmospheric feel, punctuated by Way's command to “keep runnin!”
Planetary (GO!) is all Pro-Tooled out, with keyboards, a dance beat, slick vocals and a bouncy up and down rhythm. Way shouts out the lyrics, again exclaiming that I can’t slow down/ I won’t be waiting for you, as the song builds to its chorus, which almost sounds TOO much like Powerman 5000’s When Worlds Collide. Despite that, the song is a fun ride.
The synth party continues with The Only Hope for Me is You, another huge sprawling epic radio song. It’s catchy in that sing-along radio MCR way, but it isn’t as edgy and creative as some of the other songs on Danger Days.
Party Poison, which channels The Hives, is a revved-up song about how This ain’t a party/Get off the dance floor/ You wanna get down/ Here comes the gang war /You’re doing alright/I got the answer/ ‘Cause all the good times/They give you cancer, and so on.
That one leads into Save Yourself, I’ll Hold Them Back, arguably the album’s best song. After a downtuned Incubus-esque guitar lead-in, the song takes off to familiar MCR territory and more Na Na Nas in the background.
If the first few songs were about running, the middle portion of the record is about fighting, as Way sings about fighting with the devil and how We can live forever if you’ve got the time.
S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W (a slower tune about hiding) and Summertime (a power-pop anthem with synth nods to The Cure) mellow things out a bit before the all-caps DESTROYA comes along and picks the energy back up. Its driving riff and Way’s layered shouting imply that the MCR guys have more than a passing admiration for hardcore legends Refused. You don’t believe in God/ I don’t believe in love/ they don’t believe in us /but I believe we’re the enemy, Way screams over and over, and those lines combined with the power riffs make DESTROYA another one of the album’s best songs.
The Kids from Yesterday then mellows out the vibe again, with more synth and dance-y rock beats.
After a closing monologue from “Dr. Death-Defying” that ends the radio broadcast theme and the National Anthem fades out, the punked up energy blast Vampire Money closes out the album. Gone are the “Killjoy” alter-egos that the band employed thus far, as Way calls out to the other members of the band before the song gets going. The song must be some sort of post-script or epilogue to the story, after the Killjoys’ story has ended. It’s not a quintessential MCR track, but it’s a fun ending to a wild ride.
In closing, Danger Days is an incredibly ambitious album from a creative band. Gone are the sequined black suits and costumed mall-goth that My Chemical Romance was four years ago. Don't go into this record expecting hauntingly poetic songs like Helena, Mama, or Give 'em Hell, Kid, or you'll be disappointed.
With this record, they’re clearly taking things to a different level, and while Danger Days isn’t perfect, it’s a pretty solid collection of songs with a unifying theme: orderly chaos. The album tackles different styles, melodies, speeds, and energies, and it will be really interesting to see how the band follows up this opus of an album next time around.