My Chemical Romance – “Danger Days: The True Lives of The Fabulous Killjoys”

My Chemical Romance have been going strong since the day they came together in 2001, and have been gaining a worldwide reputation ever since. Although not always a good reputation, the New Jersey band have never been deterred from doing what they do and love best, which is making music that stands out from the crowd and makes a statement. Danger Days: The True Lives of The Fabulous Killjoys marks the fifth studio album from My Chemical Romance, and it truly is unlike anything the band have produced before and shows that they are indeed shedding their skin of old and emerging with something literally a lot more bright and colourful.

The previous album from My Chemical Romance, The Black Parade, was the first concept album from the band and was met with a very mixed reception from audiences and critics alike. The Black Parade served a purpose of extending the bands creative ideas into something a lot more conceptual as the album followed somewhat of a storyline and a similar theme running throughout the album. But after a lot of bad press from British tabloids, My Chemical Romance were permanently fixed with a stigma they found increasingly hard to shake – one of an “emo” band promoting ritual suicides with a bleak outlook on life. Of course, none of this related back to anything the band intended to produce, but it still left a huge scar on the My Chemical Romance name that would be hard to cover up. Despite all this, though, My Chemical Romance have persevered and after ditching an entire albums worth of material because it “wasn’t right for them”, they have created something unlike anything they have created before.

To say that Danger Days: The True Lives of The Fabulous Killjoys is a concept album would be to totally undermine it. It is conceptual, yes, and there is somewhat of a storyline running through the album, but it also represents so much more than that. It represents a renewed confidence and a return to form for My Chemical Romance, with ideas and sounds that are fresh, funky, and feel totally different to how they were before. The concept behind the backdrop of Danger Days… comes primarily from an idea that Gerard Way had for a comic book series, and instead merged with new song ideas he had to become what is now their latest album. Danger Days… sees the members of My Chemical Romance transformed into mysterious characters collectively known as The Fabulous Killjoys – Gerard Way’s alter-ego is “Party Poison”, Frank Iero has become “Fun Ghoul”, Ray Toro is now “Jet-Star” and Michael Way is now known as “The Kobra Kid”. But what is the purpose of The Fabulous Killjoys? Led by their guide, the mysterious pirate radio DJ “Dr. Death Defying” (otherwise known as Steve Montano of Mindless Self Indulgence), The Killjoys race across the futuristic landscape of a 2019 version of California in their muscle cars taking out rival gangs of evil-doers in laser-gun battles and correcting their post-apocalyptic world. It all sounds like something out of a hugely colourful comic book, but that’s also what makes Danger Days… such an interesting concept and backdrop for an album. It’s like listening to the soundtrack of a science fiction comic book, which is precisely what Gerard Way and the rest of My Chemical Romance were going for!

After Dr. Death Defying introduces The Killjoys onto the album, the opener and first single off the album Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na) immediately denotes a My Chemical Romance of an entirely different ilk and is a mass call-to-arms for any futuristic laser fighters out there, and is all about changing the world for the better with its refrain of “everybody wants to change the world but no-one wants to die”. Na Na Na is My Chemical Romance taking their sound back to a more authentic punk sound, and has a more legitimate taste of rock and roll to it than the band has previously had. After one listen, you can tell that this is not the same band as before!

Bulletproof Heart starts off by backtracking a little into some older My Chemical Romance sound, but then quickly switches to a bigger, ballsier sound, catching you off-guard a little and shows just how hard My Chemical Romance are trying to shake off their old stigma and grow into something sparkling and new. SING is a truly anthemic song the likes of which have only really been seen on Welcome to the Black Parade, but it’s moving choruses of “Sing it for the deaf, Sing it for the blind, Sing about everyone that you left behind. Sing it for the World” shows how My Chemical Romance have almost added an entire dimension to their songs that give a renewed air of legitimacy to their new sounds. Spacey, sci-fi synth sounds welcome in Planetary (GO!) and fits in very well with the science fiction backdrop of the whole album, and adds some bounce to the record with lyrics like “If my velocity starts to make you sweat then just don’t let go”. It’s easy to see from words like this how these songs fit in with the theme of racing across 2019 California in muscle cars with the volume turned way up!

Future single The Only Hope For Me Is You is possibly the only remaining shred of evidence on this record that the previous incarnations of My Chemical Romance ever existed, as there are definitely tinges of their older style in this dark, cinematic sound-scope of a song, but not enough for it to affect the rest of the album in the same way.

Following an intermission from Dr. Death Defying over Jet-Star and the Kobra Kid meeting their untimely demise, Party Poison cheers everyone up with some old school punk n’ roll with lines like “Ain’t a DJ gonna save my soul, I sold it long ago for Rock ‘n’ Roll”, which will obviously be very successful at getting hands clapping and feet moving at their future shows. S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W is a slow, melodic and oddly romantic number on this album, mixed in with some otherworldly sounds and words like “Never mind the shape I’m in – I’ll keep you safe tonight”. The same can also be said for the slightly more colourful Summertime, the two back to back creating a slower, romanticised bridge in the overall album.

DESTROYA introduces a different kind of groove to what My Chemical Romance have gone for on the rest of Danger Days… but that’s not to say that it’s no good. In fact, its deep grooves present an interesting change from what you’d expect and throw another curveball at you; such is the style of this album. The Kids From Yesterday could almost pass as an 80’s retro dance-synth song, coming more from a David Bowie influence than a punky, rock and roll one. After a final farewell from Dr. Death Defying, Vampire Money comes in with an explosive round off to the record with lyrics like “sparkle like Bowie in the morning sun” officialising the influence on the previous song. Either way, Danger Days… goes out with a massive bang, as a record of this style only ever could, with implied pictures of The Killjoys racing off into the sunset.

Overall, My Chemical Romance have worked hard to shake off any former reputations they might have had, and Danger Days: The True Lives of The Fabulous Killjoys goes a long way towards correcting any ideas people may already have about them, as it introduces something shiny and new into their world. It’s easy to picture the concept of Danger Days… as a comic book, or even as a short film, filled with colourful muscle cars, laser fights and mysterious heroes, and perhaps that could just be where this will take My Chemical Romance in the future.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (Contains Spoilers)

And so, the first part of the grand finale of the money making machine that is the Harry Potter franchise gets its release. I’d like to make it known straight away that I have NOT read the books (in fact, I believe I’ve only read one of them cover to cover), so this is all an opinion that doesn’t have any prior knowledge of the books.

I generally think that the Harry Potter franchise has been on a winning streak from the get-go – they have a clear audience in kids, and the adults like it because they normally end up reading the books to their kids. As the films have moved on and the cast/characters have grown up the films have gradually turned from something light and entertaining to something a lot more dark and dramatic, both relevant to normal kids (like “girl troubles”) and not-so-relevant (like having a mass –murdering dark wizard out to get you). As such, I’ve gradually become a little cynical of the franchise and how it has become this money-making phenomenon, and how each film “is going to be the darkest Harry Potter yet”. Surely if they get any darker, they’re going to run out of blue-hue settings on their graphics engines? Regardless, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was always going to be popular, because this is the beginning of the end of a wizarding era. There were slow parts of the film that I lived with to see where they led, but overall the film was moderately enjoyable for someone that has no major interest in the books.

One of the few things I found a little off-putting about the film was the amount of pointing the script had. There were lines of the dialogue that consisted of “Who’s he?” “Oh, him? He’s such-and-such. He does this, and his significance in this story is this.” Sure, for people who haven’t read the books this is obviously necessary in order to not be totally and utterly lost, and there is a certain amount of bluntness has to be used in order to move along to the important parts, but at certain points I did feel that I was being handed all my information on a plate. Granted, the makers of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows knew that people unfamiliar with the books would be coming to see it as well, and that not all of them would be film students, but I couldn’t help feeling that at certain parts there were other ways they could have tied information together.

The deepening relationships are becoming a lot more obvious, too. Of course, anyone who knows how the final book ends, Harry marries Ginny (Ron’s little sister, presumably in an attempt to create his own version of Ron for himself), and Ron ends up with Hermione, and all the way through this film they’re pushing on that in a “subtle” way. Even for people who don’t know how it ends, Ron and Hermione already act like such a married couple it’s hard to imagine them being anything else! These scenes are less than subtle, but again have a reason as they form part of the major storyline, and at the point where the Horcrux starts affecting Ron’s head it acts as a trigger for other events. Even so, some of these “developing” scenes felt a little forced on to people.

One part I really did find hard to watch was the dance scene at around the two-thirds point of the film. I completely understand that this scene is about Harry breaking the tension with Hermione and having a chance to both feel a bit normal and human in light of all the terrible things that are happening all around them, but I’m fairly sure this scene isn’t in the book and only exists as a visual means for explaining the tension we already know. This felt a little forced and was a little too humorous in a scene that didn’t need it, and could have been handled differently.

The point at which this film ends is also the point at which everything starts going to hell, which I think is both good and bad. It ends at a point at which you’re hanging on waiting to see what happens next, which is technically a good place to end it so the audience stays interested, but it also finishes just when things start picking up a bit more, making a majority of this film more of a set-up for what happens next. The final scenes of the film show the self-sacrifice of Dobby the House Elf, as he gives his life to save the others in a very sad yet heroic way. However, I personally got the distinct impression that the only people who really cared about this were people who had read the books. To anyone else, he merely represented a bit of a quirky secondary character that we’ve only seen in one other film and have a minimal amount of respect for, and as such find it hard to care about him right up until he actually does die which is sad, yes, but not exactly the heart-breaking ending the filmmakers intended to leave this part on. I personally found it kind of hard to care as much as everyone else did about the death of someone I found slightly annoying.

Overall, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 IS only part of something more, so it’s hard to generalise too much over anything that happens in this film as you’re technically only watching half a film (even though its two-and-a-half hours long…). It’s done its job of getting me interested in how it all ends, but I’m wondering if in 6 months when the final part comes out (in 3D, no less!), I’ll still really care. After so much hype and build up, the ending to the Harry Potter franchise had better be nothing less than a completely epic, Star Wars meets Lord of the Rings scale ending. Anything less than that would probably just be a major disappointment! I’m giving Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 6 out of 10 for entertainment value, but this is still only half of a whole film.

Deftones & Coheed And Cambria @ Southampton Guildhall, 15/11/2010

The temperature outside the Southampton Guildhall this evening is rapidly dropping to near freezing whilst people are still queuing to get in through the doors. Luckily, the atmosphere on the inside is much less frosty. In fact, it’s positively electric with excitement and anticipation of the show ahead once the crowd starts culminating in the main room. The DJ is spinning tunes for the eager crowd, and to get everyone ready and fired up (and to generate a little heat to the cavernous room as well) Slayer is belted out through the PA system as a level of decibels normally equalled only by the performing bands! It does well to get the crowds warmed up and ready for the proceeding show, though, as when the lights dim at around 7:30 for New Jersey prog-prodigies Coheed And Cambria, the frontline of the crowd bellow out battle cries like there’s no tomorrow.

Coheed And Cambria take to the stage under a camouflage of strobe lights and spacey, atmospheric sound effects reflective of the kind of progressive rock/metal blends and sci-fi fiction that have given them their devoted fan base. When they introduce their set with the equally entrancing In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3, it becomes clear that Coheed And Cambria know who they are playing to tonight. They don’t have to impress a new crowd, nor are they deliberately trying to win over any new comers to their shows. Instead, they know they are playing to people that, for the most part, know about them already and as such they dive right into a bunch of handpicked older songs as well as a bunch of new tried-and-tested ones from their latest release Year Of The Black Rainbow. After the marching sounds of In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 start to fade out, they kick things up a notch with Ten Speed and then right into latest fan favourite Here We Are Juggernaut. It’s during moments like these, and when they plough head on into crowd pleaser A Favour House Atlantic, that you can see how Coheed And Cambria have gradually become more and more of a tightly knit unit. Claudio Sanchez is a whirlwind of hair, guitar and awesomeness whilst bassist Mike Todd has some impressive techniques on show tonight and, whilst they aren’t accompanied by the backing singers they have had in the past, Travis Stever does a fantastic job of adding in backing vocals and frantic guitar work on newer tracks like This Shattered Symphony and the powerful World of Lines.

When No World For Tomorrow makes it powerful entrance onto tonight’s bill, though, its ex-Dillinger Escape Plan drummer Chris Pennie who really shines through with his machine gun silo drumming, belting the double-kick drums so hard over the PA that it’s to collectively pop everyone’s ears! It’s impressive stuff, nonetheless, and whilst Coheed And Cambria don’t do their usual mid-set cover of Iron Maiden’s The Trooper, they do round off their mammoth support set with the awesomely triumphant Welcome Home which plasters a big fat smile across every fans face, getting them to chant back at the stage area as if they were battle cries. Though Coheed And Cambria have an hour-long support slot tonight, their time on stage seems to fly by, and they leave the crowd sufficiently feverish for more. Let’s just hope that, in due time, Coheed And Cambria will grace our fair shores for a headlining tour once again.

After what seems like hardly any time at all, the lights dim once again, hailing the arrival of Sacramento’s finest rockers Deftones. They waste no time in whipping the crowd into a frenzy by opening with the viceral Rocket Skates. As with Coheed And Cambria before them, Deftones know what the crowd tonight have come for, and as such their hour-and-three-quarters long set list comprises of a majority of songs of their latest release Diamond Eyes as well as fan favourites and older classics such as My Own Summer (Shove It) and Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away), each of which the crowd recognise instantly as soon as they start. It’s only half-way through their set tonight that Deftones indulge the crowd with Diamond Eyes and the slow churning, earth moving You’ve Seen The Butcher, leading man Chino Moreno leading the crowd in every scream, every shout and every movement. Chino cuts an impressive figure tonight, constantly bounding from one end of the stage to the other, spending more time on the elevated parts of the stage an entire body length higher than the crowd than he actually does on the stage itself. The only thing missing from this show tonight is their bassist Chi Cheng, who is still currently hospitalised in a semi-conscious state after a car crash a couple of years ago, with Quicksand bassist Sergio Vega standing in for him since. Some members of the crowd have turned up tonight in “One Love For Chi” T-shirts they have made themselves, and this does not go unnoticed by Chino or any of his band mates as they dedicate a song to him.

Towards the end of their set, a light shines onto a hanging disco ball which lights up each member of the room as Chino leads into the darkly haunting and strangely romantic Sex Tape, before they start rounding off the night with the huge sing-along of Minerva, Passenger and the ethereal sounds of Change (In The House of Flies). As they leave the stage for the night, a huge smile is slapped across each fans face as everyone piles back out into the freezing temperatures of the night. After the show, many of the members of each band are hanging around, all too willing to sign merchandise, take pictures and generally hang out for as long as they can. There are rumoured difficulties at home for Chino, which could be why he’s one of the last people to make a show. But nonetheless, Chino is nothing but a true gentleman when he does, as are all the rest of the members of both bands on tonight’s bill.

And that’s ultimately what tonight has been about for Coheed And Cambria and Deftones tonight – the fans. It’s in how their set lists are put together, it’s in how they address the crowd like they’re talking to each of them individually, and it’s in the length of time they spend with their fans afterwards, just hanging out. And that’s what sets both of these bands into a class of their own – their creativity, their uniqueness and not forgetting where they came from and who their fans are.

LISTED Film Previews – November 2010

Once again, I bring you another list of some films you should (and some, maybe you shouldn’t!) go and check out this month. It also sees the return of the money-making machine that is the Harry Potter franchise. Make of it what you will, but needless to say, this is going to sell out everywhere. If there was ever going to be a “Big One” for this generation, this one and ultimately the very last one will be it! Mark my words, this is going to be massive stuff! Get your eyes on it:

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART ONE (12A) (Dir. David Yates)

With the last instalment of the already multi-million dollar franchise being split into two parts, it’s really hard to not question the ratio between doing the most crucial book justice with creative integrity and milking the final cash-cow for all its worth before it all ends. That being said, anyone who liked the very stylistic (if somewhat plot-holed) Half-Blood Prince will be happy to hear that the same director and writer are on board for this final venture, so fans of the teenage wizard troop are sure to get the kind of film they’re hoping for. What’s more, this will all be in “magical” 3D so all the cool broomstick and spell effects will seem a lot more lifelike, which will provide more entertainment for the seven people out there who haven’t read the final book! Released November 19th.

JACKASS 3-D (18) (Dir. Jeff Tremaine)

Ok, so there’s never really any plotline, there are no dynamic characters or multi-layered threads of development of any kind. There are no cool computer effects, no action stars, and hardly even a script. But let’s face it, even the sternest of film critics will have a moment of weakness and let slip a giggle when they see someone get smacked across the room by a giant, spring-loaded rubber hand! Jackass may have been somewhat left behind in recent years, but the fact that this latest effort from Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Steve-O and the rest of the danger-facing crew has been filmed using 3D cameras might add a touch more interest for the people out there cringing at the thought of this film taking up precious screen time at their local cinema. It does beg the question, though: Just how much many dangerous stunts can you really do in 3D, and are they going to be awesome? Released November 5th.

THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNETS NEST (18) (Dir. Daniel Alfredson)

Steig Larsson’s Millennium trilogy finally comes to a close with the high-octane final instalment! After the events of Girl Who Played With Fire, Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) is fighting for her life in intensive care whilst Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) is fighting to prove her innocence. This is set to round off the trilogy in a pretty big way, and is very hotly tipped for some Oscar Nominations (Rapace is in the running for Best Actress) this year. Make sure you catch this film, as well as the first two, before the Hollywood re-make with Daniel Craig is released next year! Released November 26th.

WELCOME TO THE RILEYS (15) (Dir. Jake Scott)

Married man James Gandolfini grieves over the loss of his daughter and his gradually fading marriage when he meets a young runaway (Kristen Stewart) on a business trip in New Orleans, and forms a questionable relationship that begins to bring all three broken people into a new life together. This is probably a film anyone who hasn’t seen any Twilight films might gravitate towards as it looks genuinely dramatic, but might also bring in a crowd eager to see Stewart wearing not very much at all… Released November 26th.

As published in Listed Magazine and on www.listedmagazine.com