my favorite band alive and working today is my chemical romance.
on the eve of the release of its new album, “danger days: the true lives of the fabulous killjoys,” i thought i’d write about why this band is my favorite.
the first time i heard my chemical romance was a lot like the first time i heard another band that had a huge impact on my life, the smashing pumpkins. let’s go back for a minute.
i’d heard the pumpkins before, but the first time i heard them and really felt anything was when i was 14.
when you’re 14, you’re trying to figure out who you are, where you belong, which high school stereotype you’re about to fill or break.
one day the pumpkins’ “tonight, tonight,” video came on mtv. in about four minutes, i’d found myself. it was really that quick.
it was not an identity marketed to me by the pumpkins or its publicist, but one that i discovered within myself. all i’d needed was billy corgan and co. to shine a light on it, to point it out to me and give me the confidence to fulfill it. it was all there; i just needed to work it out for myself.
the path the pumpkins put me on was a good start, and i chose the way i traveled on it by listening to myself, my friends, my family, my faith, my education, everything that shapes a person and makes them who they are.
the smashing pumpkins introduced me to myself.
fast-forward not quite 10 years to the spring of 2005.
i was the city news editor at the daily mississippian, the student paper at ole miss, and i’d just been chosen as editor-in-chief. and i was terrified. naturally.
again, i wondered about my identity. was i doing right by myself? was journalism really for me? was i where i should be – not just in school, but in every other place in my life?
one morning, while i was getting ready for class, the video for “i’m not okay (i promise)” came on mtv. gerard way and co. used that same flashlight, and again, i found myself. the band gave me confidence to be myself, to find peace with who i am, but also pushed me to stand up for myself and what i believe in.
i felt like i was hearing myself in the form of a band.
i bought the band’s two records, but it was really mcr’s second, “three cheers for sweet revenge,” that was the soundtrack to my editorship at the dm – and that’s exactly what i needed.
as editor, you’re under intense scrutiny by your 15,000 readers – which includes your advisors, professors and fellow staff members – every day. you need a hell of a backbone and a knight’s armor for skin. i didn’t have that myself, but i borrowed my chemical romance’s. i might not have a developed punk rock attitude just yet, but theirs suited me just fine. it might’ve been borrowed, but at least it was there.
“promise me that when i’m gone you’ll kill my enemies
the damage you’ve inflicted – temporary wounds
i’m coming back from the dead… i’m taking back the life you stole.
this hole you put me in wasn’t deep enough
and i’m climbing out right now.”
then came real life. a job. a 401k. turning 25. basically feeling old, out of place.
“the black parade” was sort of a dangerous record for me – it seemed to confirm my fears of growing older and dying and wondering if you’re living life right (read: quarter-life crisis). gerard even sings, in “disenchanted,” about a “lifelong wait for a hospital stay” – a fear i’ve never said aloud, but gerard did.
the album ended, though, with the fabulous “famous last words.” i always forget how life-saving that song is. “i am not afraid to keep on living,” gerard sings. i have needed to hear that many times; it always gives me strength to get through anything i need getting through.
but when it comes to lyrics that give me strength, nothing does like the end of one of my favorites, “kill all your friends.”
“you’ll never take me alive, you’ll never take me alive
do what it takes to survive, ’cause i’m still here.”
i borrowed mcr’s take-no-prisoners attitude in college, but i don’t need it now. i have my own, thanks, partly, to the band.
on the other hand, my chemical romance is an amazing confessional band that’s there for you when the world is crumbling.
as the band members have said in many interviews, sometimes you have to admit to yourself and others that you’re not okay. thus the power of “i’m not okay (i promise),” probably still my favorite mcr song (just like, yes, “tonight, tonight” is still my favorite pumpkins song).
trust me on this. go see my chemical romance live and listen to “i’m not okay (i promise),” and sing – no, scream – along, feel the power of the words in the title and try not to cry.
there’s always been an incredible amount of color and life in everything mcr’s done, even in its darkest days. everything about my chemical romance is art – everything is a part of a story, all of it has a place. that inspires me to find art everywhere in my own life. the band makes my world a little more beautiful.
i haven’t heard “danger days” yet, but based on everything the band members have said in interviews, it sounds like this record will be the soundtrack for the next chapter of my life. i can’t wait to hear it – and to live it.
“you’ve got to be what tomorrow needs.”