Sunday, August 16, 2009
#137. 'Trust me'
I know I already used my 'this is not emo' boilerplate for Yellowcard last week, but of all the bands that get the label misapplied to them none is more egregious than My Chemical Romance. I mean, sure they're excessively dramatic, but the secret to their success is that really they're an alternate dimension version of Queen that grew up on Iron Maiden, Dookie and Tim Burton movies. This is much more readily apparent on The Black Parade than on their breakthrough Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, but even then there's an aura of camp that surrounds them at key moments and manages to transform what would be unbearably dramatic teenage angst into self deprecation. The biggest thing that people seem to miss is that MCR are doing this stuff with their tongues firmly in cheek. It's not meant to be taken seriously as far as I'm concerned, and that's what makes it so much better than I'd initially estimated.
See, MCR were my sister's band more than mine. I got exposed to them by proxy and by virtue of very thin walls. To start with I hated it for every reason their detractors like to throw around. It was so very teenage to my ears; pointlessly melodramatic, angsty without reason and so obviously crafted for this new "emo" scene that I didn't want anything to do with it. Sure "Helena"was getting a lot of year-end list love in 2005 but I wasn't fooled...until I finally took a good listen to "I'm Not OK (I Promise.)" It was still everything I railed against earlier for a good portion of the song, but then as frontman Gerard Way got more unnecessarily manic and unhinged there came two words, delivered in a total deadpan by one of the other guys in the band (fucked if I'm gonna look up their names at this hour.) that just caused everything to come into perspective: 'Trust me.'
It just made me laugh at first because it sounded so out of place: here was this unbelievably angsty song delivered from the heights of melodrama that gets interrupted for a couple of seconds for one deadpan aside. It seemed like a weird studio accident, one of those things that wasn't necessarily meant to be caught on tape but got left in the final mix for some reason. If it wasn't accidental though, it was particularly well-timed comedy at least. Every other time I heard the song that became the part I waited for, a little aside was making me not mind the song every now and then. It took another goo listen for it to fully click for me though.
Basically, not only was it well-timed comedy, it was the key to my not hating MCR anymore. Assuming that the 'trust me' aside was wholly intentional, it pointed to a band that refused to take themselves seriously at all times. If the band wasn't taking themselves seriously all the time, there's also the chance that they were taking themselves seriously none of the time. As such the melodramatic overload of "I'm Not OK" isn't necessarily meant to be taken seriously, and taken with a grain of salt it's much more palatable. In short: two words make the song go from unbearably angsty to knowingly over the top and take the band into the realms of camp. I'm not sure if that's the way they intended it but it works for me.
With that in mind, "I'm Not OK" grew on me as a piece of willing self-deprecation. The melodrama now came with a wink in the listener's general direction, Way knows how over the top he's going at every moment and you're supposed to know it too. Instead of cringing at the vocals and lyrics they started to take on life as a giant joke whose punchline was as brief as they come. Trust me.
Coming up tomorrow: When is a build up not a build up or fake crescendos.