The Black Parade/Living with Ghosts – Review

RECORD COMPANIES HAVE always enjoyed ‘remastering’ albums and re-releasing them for an easy profit. In the current industry, where the album has lost much of its financial reward, they could even become vital to the continued survival of it. Despite this, it remains to be seen if remastering really achieves anything artistically – particularly with an album only released ten years ago.

Still, as re-releases go The Black Parade/Living with Ghosts does a pretty good job of it. The Living with Ghosts side of the album shows us the development of the album. The most interesting of these demos is ‘The Five of Us Are Dying’. A very different, but certainly recognisable, early version of ‘Welcome to the Black Parade’, we hear a slightly-less iconic sounding Gerard Way work his way round a song that just doesn’t sound quite as life-changing as what it would become. The Living with Ghosts side of the album is an interesting listen but not a particularly outstanding one. It is there for us to hear the developments of the band, not the band at its best. It is the rough drafts and the scribbled-out workings that would contribute to the building of a classic.

Because The Black Parade is, undoubtedly, the finest rock album of the two-thousands. Every song has its own particular punch, all the while fitting in to the album as a cohesive work, so that pressing the pause button for even a second feels like an injustice. Gerard Way’s voice at times demands your attention with screams and at others tenderly lulls you in. The lyrics can at times shock you (‘Dead’), sadden you (‘Welcome to the Black Parade’ – a well-worn example but a good one), and even make you laugh (‘Teenagers’, is there a better bit of musical satire?). The instrumentation is at times understated (‘I Don’t Love You’ builds perfectly to a beautiful, climactic guitar solo) and at others gloriously over-blown (‘Welcome to the Black Parade’; who doesn’t love a bit of brass?) but at all times makes sense with each song and the progression of the album as a whole.

One of the genuine merits of the re-release of an album is that it cause even the wearied listener to hear again with a fresh ear. This certainly happens here. ‘Welcome to the Black Parade’, which has become so iconic that its opening lyrics are almost farcical, struck me almost as much on this listen as it did the first time. It can also cause a listener to remember the forgotten tracks, the ones that weren’t released as singles or turned into viral memes, as is the case for tracks like ‘Mama’ or ‘The End.’.

In fact, if I’ve taken anything from this re-release, it is how much of a case The Black Parade has for being one of the true classic albums of all time. It is easy, and music is perhaps the most common area to do this in, to get nostalgic for a glorious musical past that has faded away, and to trick ourselves that modern music just isn’t as good. Ten years ago, My Chemical Romance were a divisive band who some hailed as geniuses while others labelled their music moaning and boring. With this release comes retrospectivity, the chance for everyone – including the nay-sayers – to detach themselves from the politics of genre and examine the album for what it is; an original, unique and beautiful collection of music.