My Chemical Romance

Eternity In Your Arms – Creeper

Release Year: 2017

Rating: 8.5/10

Rock music has gone through numerous changes since its inception, but somewhere along the way, it lost its theatrics. Rockstars no longer seem larger than life, mysterious, or alien. Creeper is here to change that. These theatrical punks from Southhampton, UK are taking you back to the days when rock music was a spectacle. Not only is their music over the top and filled with Gothic drama, they’re creating a mythos and extend an offer to join their Creeper Cult. With dark imagery, a healthy dose of punk rock, and a dash of theater, these punks are making rock music fun again.

Creeper is all about theatrics. You can hear every ounce of drama, camp, fear, and desire in their songs whether it’s from the music or frontman Will Gould’s vocals. Their songs are like mini-macabre plays circling around themes of love, death, loss, loneliness, and frustration. The album itself is a loose concept record based on the characters Madeline, The Stranger, and James Scythe, which were first mentioned on their second EP, The Callous Heart. While the story is easy enough to pick up after a few listens, it doesn’t make or break the record. You could easily listen to it without realizing the songs are connected. In the end, the story doesn’t really matter because everything else about the album is so damn good.

The opening track “Black Rain” perfectly captures what Creeper is about. It has a gloomy, Gothic intro featuring a brief mysterious monologue before exploding in a mass of shredding guitars and crashing keys. The best part is the big chorus which sounds like a choir from the depths of darkness singing “And in the rain/I screamed your name.” It has an awesome anthemic quality; you can easily picture a stadium singing this song. Though it’s one of the album’s highlights, there are moments where it reminds you of My Chemical Romance’s “Helena.” It’s forgivable, though.

Poison Pens” doesn’t let you relax for a second with its pummeling drums, doom-laden bass, and rapid guitars. It’s a hyper punk track that’ll get you moshing as soon you hear “Our love is dead!” screaming in your ears. The bridge gives you a chance to catch your breath when things slow down and Gould sings “I fell like an angel for you/now I do the deeds that devils do” sounding sinister and ready to strike. The off the rails pace and AFI-inspired gang vocals make it one of the most thrilling tracks on the album. “Suzanne” is another high energy track with a similar punk edge full of morbid imagery. The song instantly hooks you with its rallying cry of “now now now now!” along with the Meatloaf-esque hooks. These over the top vocals are part of their campy appeal and helps them stand out in the deluge of forgettable punk rock bands.

Hiding With Boys” is another insanely fun song that shows off a bit of the band’s glam-rock influences. This one is more upbeat and doesn’t have as much of an edge as the other tracks. The hook of “hiding with the boys in your bedroom” has an infectious melody and is just fun to sing at the top of your lungs. The music is kind of playful and the extensive keys give the song more of a classic feel, as if you heard it before, which isn’t necessarily bad.

But just when you have the band figured out, they switch gears showing another side to themselves. “Misery” keeps its gloomy nature with the subdued acoustic guitar accompanying Gould’s fragile vocals slowing things down considerably. With just Gould and a guitar, for the most part, it’s the most honest track on the album. The Gothic nature of the band shows up in coy lines like “I wrote down a list of coroners/their names, their office phone numbers/to pronounce dead the thing we had” and the hook “misery never goes out of style.”  Near the end, the music intensifies and Gould’s vocals are more pronounced and powerful as if he’s found the will to go on despite all the bad things happening. This shift nicely changes things, keeping the song from getting dull.

Creeper gives us another intimate moment with “Crickets,” sung by keyboardist Hannah Greenwood. Unlike most of the record, this song has a hint of a country vibe, especially with the accompanying violin in the background. Greenwood absolutely kills the song with her pretty, yet gritty vocals. You can feel her ache as she sings about the end of a relationship. The song is an unexpected treat from the band. Not only do these songs give us a break from the onslaught of raging guitars and dark matter, they show how the band can go beyond their comfort zone. They’re not just another band keen on loud guitars and screaming vocals.

While most of the songs are fun, catchy, and stand out, the two low points of the album are “Down Below” and “Winona Forever.” These songs aren’t bad; they’re both upbeat and fun like the other tracks with their sing-a-long hooks and bouncy rhythms. They’re just not that memorable compared to the rest of the album. The band quickly gets back on track with “Darling” and “Room 309,” which continue the trend of raging guitars, big hooks, and lots of drama. Here, it’s hard not hear their musical influences. You can easily pick up traces of AFI, MCR, Misfits, and Alkaline Trio. Is this bad? Not really. It’s clear they’re inspired by these bands, but at least they avoid sounding like cheap knockoffs.

Creeper excels at bringing camp and theatrics to their music, which is part of the reason it’s so much fun. Everything feels over the top from the music to the lyrics, which would sound cheesy anywhere else. The huge dramatics come out the most during closing track “I Choose to Live.” Here, they rip out a page from Queen’s book and feature larger than life music with a booming chorus. One of the most personal songs on the record, it deals with overcoming life’s struggles. Gould starts out singing softly as if defeated. But as we crescendo, his voice gains strength until he’s shouting “I choose to live” at the top of his lungs. It ends the album on an oddly positive note, letting you know no matter what you’re going through, you’re strong enough to survive.

Eternity in Your Arms is a hodgepodge of all the bands Creeper loves and has been influenced by. While they are mostly inspired by punk rock, you can hear traces of emo, glam, pop, and, dare I say, country. This is what helps them stand out. These elements are found all over their songs, keeping the album fresh and exciting. Featuring big hooks, lots of gang vocals, and a touch of Gothic and emo tendencies, their songs are grandiose, a spectacle even. It brings you back to the days when rockstars were meant to be bigger than life or aliens from another planet altogether. Sure, what they’re doing isn’t necessarily breaking genres, but man is it fun.

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Playlist: High School  Throwback

Whether or not you want to think about, school is about to start. That means more homework, more teachers, and more excuses to cut class. Seeing the back to school commercials always makes me think of going back to high school, which then makes me think about music during that time. Specifically emo music. Just like everywhere else, there were kids roaming the hallways jet black hair and way too much eyeliner. Similar for their love of Hot Topic, they had an undying love for certain bands that popped up around the time. Some of them were so big that even I couldn’t get away from them. So here’s a playlist dedicated to the most popular emo songs and bands from 2003 – 2007. I’m not saying these bands are emo, but they’re names are usually associated with the genre.

“All That I’ve Got” – The Used

I was never heavily into The Used, but for some reason I used to like this song. It has this kind of whimsical feel to it with the light tinkling music and Bert McCracken’s noticeably softer vocals. The band was known for their screaming and brash sound, so this was a pretty big change for them. This was also their most accessible song since it sounded kind of nice. Apparently, the track is dedicated to McCracken’s dog, David Bowie, who got hit by a truck. Like many of the bands on the list, this was one people in high school listened to and thought it made them a basass. Hopefully, they’ve learned by now.

“I Write Sins Not Tragedies” – Panic! At the Disco

I’ve always considered P!ATD Fall Out Boy with more whimsy and catchier songs. They popped up right at the peak of FOB popularity and swayed listeners with their blend of pop punk, synth, dance, and baroque. Though many weren’t sure what the song was about when it was released, the band’s second single gained many fans with its memorable hook and sing along ability. If you’re wondering about the title, it’s a reference to a Douglas Adams book called Shampoo Planet. Throughout their entire debut album, the band makes references to novels, including Chuck Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters giving their lyrics a little more sustenance.

“Memory” – Sugarcult

Sugarcult is one of those bands where I recognized their name, but never listened to them. Still, I somehow heard this song a bunch of times without realizing who it was. With that opening line of “This may never start/we could fall apart” it burns itself into your memory…get it? That’s the name of the song? Nevermind. It’s one of those songs that was easy to ignore, but took me back to slamming lockers and crowded hallways as soon as it started.

“Welcome to My Life” – Simple Plan

Oh Simple Plan. I’ll admit, I liked them for a bit, until I realized all their songs sound the same. This along with the emo-tastic “Perfect” were anthems for the youth that felt misunderstood and disaffected. Simple Plan was apparently the voice of reason. Listening to the song now they’re so fucking whiny. They make small annoyances and frustrations sound bigger than they are, which I guess describes high school in general. And Pierre Bouvier’s vocals are so grating they make me want to jam a cotton swab in my ear. Now, they’re considered a phase in music that most people would rather forget.

“Sugar, We’re Going Down” – Fall Out Boy

If there was one song you couldn’t escape from in 2005 it was this one. Though they’d already been establishing themselves in the Chicago music scene, they exploded on to the mainstream with this single. It’s so fucking catchy that you listened to the song even if you hated it. With the weird video and Patrick Stump’s slurring vocals, the song became a hit and thus began the Fall Out Boy reign. Today, they claim they can save rock and roll and name songs after famous actresses. Somehow, they’re more annoying now than they ever were when this song hit. If you want someone to blame for absurdly long song titles, just look at the tracklist for their second LP.

“I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” – My Chemical Romance

MCR were another one of those bands that outcast teens to flocked to share their pain and apathy. Look no further than this song that has it all in its melodramatic title. The song expanded their audience and gained them such a loyal following that hearts were bruised and crushed when they broke up in 2013. The song is not awful by any means, but listening to it now from an older perspective you can see how the lyrics may not be as deep and clever as you once thought. Hell, I used to be an MCR fan, until the Black Parade.

“Note to Self” – From First to Last

Many bands during the mid 2000s donned themselves with black dye, eyeliner, and hair in their faces. This pretty much describes From First to Last. I never liked this band when they were popular. I remember seeing them all over my copies of Alt Press and thinking “The lead singer looks like he was hit in the face.” Just hearing a few minutes of this song, they have the high pitched whiny vocals that was standard for a lot of these bands. Who knew that years later Sonny Moore would adopt a new hair style and dub himself as Skirllex.

“The Truth About Heaven” – Armor For Sleep

These guys weren’t as popular as some of the other bands on the list and I can’t remember how I found out about them. I just know that there was a long time when I would play this song on repeat, especially when it felt like the world was on my shoulders. The song comes from their second album which is all about a protagonist’s suicide and his journey through the afterlife. Can you get any more emo than that?

“Wow! I Can Get Sexual Too” – Say Anything

So this song is not necessarily emo, but the band is often lumped into that category and this is the only one I know by them. Thanks to the wonderful Fuse network, I stumbled upon this track and thought it was hilarious. The somewhat dirty hook stayed in my brain and made me sing it on repeat (except when my mom was around). It’s not awful, but looking back at it the song, and the video, are quite stupid. But that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to listen to every once in a while.

Ohio is for Lovers” – Hawthorne Heights

Hawthorne Heights‘ debut single burst onto the scene and made the band pretty popular. The video circulated quite a bit on MTV2, where I originally saw it. At the time, I thought the song was really dark with the line “So cut my wrists and black my eyes,” but I don’t feel the same way now. Similar to other bands on the list, they have the whiny vocals going on with the added touch of screamo, which made me think they were more intense than they actually are. The song, which is about leaving behind their girlfriends while touring, has been called the Emo Anthem and after listening to it for so long it’s not hard to figure out why. The band would go on to have more successful singles, each more melancholy than the last.

“Face Down” – The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

It seems like this band received mainstream attention right as the “golden age” of emo was ending. This was one of those songs where you heard snippets of it everywhere and never knew who sang it. It’s so damn catchy that it gets stuck in your head and you find yourself singing it even if you don’t want to. Hell, I’ve sang it a few times even though I’m not a fan of it. The song isn’t horrible, but personally it’s nothing special. Though they’ve released several albums since this song, this is still what they’re known for.

“MakeDamnSure” – Taking Back Sunday

TBS already gave us the wonderful “Cute Without the E (Cut from the Team)” a few years earlier, which is a popular song for the genre, but this is the one that received the most attention when I was in high school. This single along with the subsequent album Louder Now, is what pushed the band into the mainstream. The song is catchy and pretty accessible. I had a couple of friends who loved the song and thought singer Adam Lazzara was super hot. Looking back on it, it is a pretty great song. It doesn’t fall into too many of the emo cliches and has aged pretty well.

Were any of these songs on the soundtrack to your life? Which emo band was your favorite? Let me know in the comments!

 

Playlist: Have a Rockin’ Christmas!

Christmas is officially a week away! It’s time to wrap those presents and prepare the house for unwanted family members. By now, you’re probably sick and tired of the same holidays songs pounding through your brain. If you’re looking for something different, there’s a surprising amount of rock Christmas covers though many of them aren’t very good. You could spend time browsing through awful covers of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” by washed up hair metal bands or you can check out this playlist of the best rock Christmas songs. Enjoy!

“All I Want for Christmas is You” – My Chemical Romance

I’m not the biggest MCR fan, but I have to admit they do an amazing job with taking this overplayed Christmas classic and turning it into something fresh and exciting. Don’t get me wrong, I love the original, but out of all the covers I’ve heard this is the best. It starts off with Gerard Way doing his best soulful impression before the blazing guitars and standard screaming vocals come in tearing the song apart. What’s even better they all sound good when singing the song. It still manages to be as catchy as the Carey version, but MCR breathes new life into it. If only they were still around to do a Christmas album.

“Last Christmas” – Jimmy Eat World

This is a simple, yet sweet cover from the pop-punk band for anyone who hates the Wham! version ( I love it!). They stay pretty true to the original while bringing their own melodic nature to the track. They actually turn the song into something mellow, soft, and kind of sad. The song itself is actually kind of a downer, but that’s easy to forget with the cheerful music playing in the background. It goes to show drastic changes don’t always make for the best cover songs.

“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” – Firehouse

This glam metal band stay true to the vibe of the original, but they bring a bit of edginess to it. Singer C.J. Snare does a decent enough job on vocals, but what makes this version stand out are the slick and fiery guitar licks. Towards the end Snare shakes things up by replacing the last line with “Bang your head right to the beat in a heavy metal way!” It’s a fun spin on this Christmas classic that’ll get you moshing around the tree. On second thought, maybe that’s not such a great idea.

“Buried by Christmas” – Wednesday 13

It’s surprising to learn Wednesday 13 has a Christmas song, but this one takes a grim turn. Just as with most of his songs he talks about death. He keeps his horror punk roots in tact with lines like “Santa! If your fat ass can hear me, you better have me a freshly dug grave!” and “All I want for Christmas is a custom fit coffin with black velvet interior and a bucket of chicken.” It’s humorous and a little grim like the rest of his material. It’s definitely not your traditional holiday tune. You may not want to play around your family if they can’t appreciate cryptic humor, but you can rock out to it all night long. It’s a little weird, but loads of fun.

“Sleigh Ride” – August Burns Red

Surprisingly, August Burns Red has an instrumental Christmas album. While they have several cool renditions of songs like “Joy to the World,” this one is by far the best. It starts out sounding like the traditional tune before the aggressive guitars and racing drums are unleashed. They speed up the song a bit to make it more excited and more appropriate for a mosh pit, but they didn’t change too much where you can’t identify the song. There’s even one part where they throw in some Jazz piano to keep the listener on their toes. It’s fresh, exciting, and makes you want to grab a sleigh and play in the snow. Plus, it’s way better than the Debbie Gibson version.

“Jingle Bells” – Skid Row

If you need to liven up your Christmas party, this is the song to play. Even though the guys in Skid Row sound a little silly shouting “Jingle bells!” at the top of their lungs, it’s still a lot of fun and will get any rock fan in the holiday mood. Musically, they flip the song on its head by layering guitar riffs on top of each other for that metal sound. They even toss in some gang vocals to put their own spin on it. It’s not the best metal Christmas cover out there, but it’s pretty fun and livens up your holiday spirit.

“Rock And Roll Christmas” – George Thorogood

You may only know him for “Bad to the Bone,” but Thorogood also has one of the most fun Christmas songs out there. With punchy horns blaring and slick guitar licks snaring, he lists off his Christmas wishes, while declaring “Let’s have a rock and roll Christmas” with good family and friends. The song represents what the holidays should be about: having a good time with the people you love. It’s upbeat, catchy, exciting, and better than the traditional Christmas songs radio stations and malls keep beating you over the head with. It’s also one of the few holiday tracks you can cut loose to. This is one that definitely should get more recognition around this time of year. Also, is it just me or does it remind you of that Arthur Christmas song?

“Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” – The Ramones

Even New York City punks get in the Christmas spirit sometimes. The Ramones bring their special brand of three-chord rock to this unique holiday song. It actually has a poignant message; nobody should be fighting on Christmas. What’s great about this song is it’s just as upbeat, catchy, and energetic as their other songs making it something you won’t mind hearing the entire year. It works so well because The Ramones just did what the normally do, make good music, and sprinkled some Christmas cheer over it.

“X-M@$” – Corey Taylor

I already talked about this track on my list of unconventional Christmas songs, but it’s so cynical and funny it has to get a nod here. Slipknot’s Corey Taylor talks about the worst part of the holiday, which is apparently everything. The best is the chorus where he sings “If I drunk, then it ain’t Christmas,” which some people can empathize with being around your family and all. Whether you actually hate Christmas or just have a good sense of humor, you can’t help but chuckle when Taylor sings “Fa-la-la-la Go fuck yourself!.” Interesting to note, Taylor actually loves Christmas. The song is aimed at those who absolutely hate it. So if you need a break from all the cheery, cheesy holiday tunes, fire this one up and pour some extra rum in your eggnog.

“Santa Claws is Coming to Town” – Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper tries to make this Christmas classic creepy with his scary sneer and changing the spelling of “Claus.” It doesn’t exactly work, but it’s still entertaining to hear Cooper slay through the song. The best part comes at the end when he lists his devious plans for the night, which includes breaking all the toys, setting things on fire, and partying all night long. Otherwise, it’s a pretty straight forward cover of the song with lots of spiraling guitar solos to give it a hard rock edge. It may not become your new holiday favorite, but it’s still a lot of fun.

“Christmas with the Devil” – Spinal Tap

According to Spinal Tap even the devil celebrates Christmas and this song notes just how he does it. With “elves… dressed in leather
And the angels…in chains” you know this isn’t a holiday tune carolers will sing throughout the neighborhood. The song is full of “naughty” images like rancid sugar plums and stockings set on fire making it the most hellish song about Christmas to exist. Still, you have to to admit the song kicks ass and seems like something Jack Black would play at his holiday parties.

“Christmas Wrapping” – The Waitresses

This is actually a song I hear every year, but had no idea it was by this band. What makes it so great is Patty Donahue’s deadpan delivery. She sounds snarky as she sings “We tried, we said we’d keep in touch/Didn’t, of course, ’til summertime/Out to the beach to his boat could I join him?/No, this time it was me/Sunburn in the third degree.” The tune is about a single woman who is sick of the mad rush of the holiday season and decides to sit this year out. Even though it has a “Bah humbug” vibe, the music is really upbeat and playful, making you want to dance and have a good time.

“Heavy Metal Christmas” – Twisted Sister

This is one of those songs that is so bad, it’s really funny. Dee Snider and the gang take “12 Days of Christmas” and inserts all the hair metal cliches: quarts of Jack, too many cans of hairspray, skull rings, leather jackets, and a tattoo of Ozzy to top it off. Sure, it sounds pretty bad and the whole idea is ridiculous, but when they start counting down the things a heavy metaler wants for Christmas, you can’t help but laugh a little. Ignore the off key vocals and the cheesiness of it and just enjoy how funny and silly it is. Besides, seven leather jackets sounds like a much better gift than seven swimming swans.

“It’s Gonna be a Punk Rock Christmas This Year” – The Ravers

It’s interesting to note a lot of people think the song is by the Sex Pistols, probably because there are so many references to them, but it’s by L.A. punks The Ravers. On this track, they talk about what it takes to have a punk rock Christmas, which includes the Queen singing “Anarchy in the UK,” being a Sex Pistol for a day, and Christmas trees adorned with safety pins. It’s a simple, upbeat song that takes holiday traditions and flips them on their head. It’s an underrated gem from 1977, but perfect for anyone who finds traditional Christmas tunes boring.

“Holiday Hate” – Psychostik

This is yet another song that talks about the annoying things about the holiday season, like fruitcake, Christmas music, and visiting grandma. It even pokes fun at the consumerism involved by saying all consumers do during the time is buy, buy, buy. Even though they take an extreme approach to the vocals and the music, it’s funny all the way through. The band actually has an entire Christmas album, but this track is my personal favorite along with “Red Snow,” which is of course about Rudolph murdering those who made fun of him.

Merry Christmas, everyone! If I missed any of your favorite rock Christmas song, let me know in the comments!

Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge- My Chemical Romance

Release Year: 2004

Rating: 7/5/10

With their blend of punk and Gothic rock, My Chemical Romance hit the music scene in the mid-2000’s and made heads roll. Though this isn’t their first album, it is the one that made the band a mainstream success. Their intense, aggressive music backed by melodic vocals makes it easy to see why so many people flocked to the band. This may not be the best album I’ve ever heard, but it’s a pretty solid effort.

The album opens with the punk infused “Helena.” It’s a very energetic, cryptic song that’s easy to get behind due to the catchy chorus and Gerard Way’s crazy vocals. The band lets their punk rock influence shine here with speeding guitars and an intense vibe that makes you go crazy. Due to all the chaotic screaming going on one may not realize the song is actually about Way’s grandmother, which adds a bleak sentimental value to the song. The next track “Give ‘Em Hell Kid” starts out with a speedy, bouncing riff that rings throughout the song. It’s another crazy energetic track that’ll have you going wild. There’s also some melody found here, which makes certain parts of the song easy to sing along to.

Probably the best song on the album is “The Ghost of You.” It’s the slowest track on the record and probably the heaviest in both music and lyrics. The intro riff is really somber and haunting, especially since it sounds hollow like it’s ringing out through an abandoned house. The song itself deals with the fear of loss and death. The music here is really great because it switches between moods of the song. The somber, slow music during the verse represents the sadness of loss, while the distorted intense guitars during the chorus represent the anger felt from said loss. It’s a really heavy song, especially when you picture the war themed video released for the single.

Though the sound for most of the album follows the band’s punk rock influence, there are a couple of songs where they get experimental. “Hang ‘Em High” has weird, Western influenced music at the beginning, which really takes you back and go what the fuck is going on. But then the music goes back to their punk chaos. The song is pretty weird, but it’s kind of cool how they stick with this Western motif, with mention of guns, riding into the sunset, and six shooters. It’s weird, but at least it’s interesting.

They also play around with different sounds on the track “You Know What They Do…” The vibe is kind of vintage Jazz club/ ragtime, which really reminds me of a Panic! at the Disco song although much heavier. Of course not wanting to stray too far from their established sound, they return to their punk distortion. The song itself is all over the place with lots of screaming and noise playing even during the singing, but it’s pretty good nonetheless.

My Chemical Romance’s music is an interesting mix of punk and conventional rock, with some metal thrown in every now and again. This means the music is usually intense and heavy as hell. But it manages to be super fast when it wants to be. The perfect example of this is found on “I’m Not Okay.” It has a really fast riff that features a lot of distortion, but it has a more conventional rock n roll feel when it comes to the guitar solo. It’s an interesting mix that gives the band it’s own chaotic, unique sound. They also manage to blend in Gothic elements in regard to their lyrics. The imagery in their songs is dark with references to blood, death, cemeteries, and violence. This cryptic imagery also influenced the band’s look at least for this release.

The vocals are also pretty cool on the album. A lot of times Way sounds unstable and on the edge, like he’s going to lose it at any moment. I particularly like his singing on the closing track “I Never Told You What I Do for a Living.” It’s unchained and playful at times. Maybe they’re so attractive because he doesn’t scream all the time. Granted, he does do it a lot, but it doesn’t take over the entire song to make it aggravating. I also feel that his vocals are not threatening. Yeah, they can be intense, but they’re also melodic enough where you can sing along with him. This mixture of heavy music and catchy vocals makes the band attractive to anyone who doesn’t want to get into super hardcore music.

Overall, the album gets 7.5/10. The songs are pretty good, with some fading into the background while others grab all the attention. Thanks to the band’s unique blend of punk and conventional rock, the music is heavy and intense. Anyone who wants lots of distortion to mosh to will love this album. It’s energetic, guaranteed to get you pumped for the day. It’s the type of album that makes you feel like you’re ready to conquer the world. Though My Chemical Romance is not a band I listen to anymore, I can at least that this album is solid and shows that they at least have their own sound.