Sunday, March 10, 2013

Excess baggage

album review

My Chemical Romance compiles songs that never made it on to their previous album, resulting in the energetic and edgy Conventional Weapons

Band: My Chemical Romance
Album: Conventional Weapons

The process of making an album often leaves artists with extra songs that don't make it onto the record for one reason or the other. At times some of these tracks later resurface on subsequent releases, while others are never unveiled and don't get a chance to make their way to the listeners' iPods.

My Chemical Romance also found themselves in possession of such excess material while recording their fourth album in 2009. After reinventing their sound with the rock opera The Black Parade (2006), MCR returned to the studio to work on their next album. A number of tracks were made by the New Jersey rock band during the initial sessions for this record, but were subsequently scrapped in favor of the material that eventually formed Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys (2010). It is these shelved songs that have now been put out as part of the band's latest project, the unconventional, multi-volume compilation, Conventional Weapons.

The missing link between The Black Parade and Danger Days, Conventional Weapons sees 10 previously unreleased tracks issued in a series of five parts, two songs apiece. One disc was released per month over the course of five months from October 2012 to February 2013.

Commencing with the punk kick of 'Boy Division', the set goes on to reveal the infectious 'Ambulance' and 'Gun', the emotional 'The Light Behind Your Eyes', and the raucous 'Make Room!!!!' (which makes prominent use of the lyric “everybody wants to change the world, but no one wants to die” which also appeared in Danger Days' 'Na Na Na'). The songs here are big and powerful, and seem like good raw material for live shows. There are various shades of anger and angst in these tracks, which are delivered with strong vocals and some great guitar work.

So was the decision to scrap these songs and record a new album instead the right one? Danger Days was a more mainstream effort, although that didn't necessarily make it a better album - it missed the power of The Black Parade and seemed perhaps less sharp and intense (and musically more upbeat) than MCR's previous opus, and that is why some listeners will probably feel that the band would have been better served had they stuck to Weapons instead of going for Danger Days. But it is also entirely possible that Weapons wouldn't have found the same mainstream traction that Danger Days did.

Ultimately, the songs in the Conventional Weapons artillery are energetic and have more edge than the tracks that eventually replaced them, but put together into one collection, they aren't as cohesive as the album that was recorded in their place (although their lack of unified theme isn't necessarily a bad thing). The curious amongst us will appreciate a chance to hear these songs; more than anything, the set offers an extremely interesting look at a band struggling to come up with the follow up to one of the most stunning concept albums of its decade, and then second guessing their decisions and choices. Fans will enjoy finding out how the band progressed during that phase and will relish the chance to discover the album that could have been.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 10th March, 2013

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