There is going to come a time when My Chemical Romance will be a very old band. Old in that mythical, storybook sense, where legacies are retold through moms, dads, uncles, aunts, grandmothers and grandfathers stretching the truth. The covers of The Black Parade and Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge may be canonized into our defining icons. The children of the 2030s and 2040s might grow up thinking Warped Tour was a lot like Woodstock. I remember sitting in the back of the family van, while my parents graciously jammed songs like “Foolin’ Yourself” and “More Than a Feeling,” these massive, cheesy portals to an all-encompassing era of pop—something that dazzled my eagerly nostalgic 10-year old self. I wonder if My Chemical Romance will serve the same purpose, for future backseats.
Last weekend’s news of MCR’s breakup ushered in a black parade of eulogizing thinkpieces, well warranted and about as emo as you could ask for given MCR’s generally histrionic emo-ness. A legion of our younger selves were deeply invested in those first two albums, and much of my current appraisal of that music now is directly and irrevocably tied to my past experiences with them. But what happens as time goes on? Will My Chemical Romance become our classic rock? Will “Rebellion (Lies)” and “Dead!” share the same radio space? Will an emo reunion festival careen through America much like the one Mark McGrath and Sugar Ray are currently leading? Will we all re-buy The Black Parade on vinyl when we try to teach our kids about “Real Music”? Right now these songs are restricted to semi-jokey 20-something wistfulness and a small Hot Topic monopoly, but that can’t last forever. My Chemical Romance was an immensely popular rock band, and they’re going to stick around in the way immensely popular rock bands have stuck around.
It’s strange thinking of emo as helping to define an era, just like how it’s strange to think a band like The Used could once score a SPIN cover. But the scope of musical history has a generalizing effect, in the way that the Talking Heads, Led Zeppelin and The Clash are all kept under the same roof in classic-rock rotation. My Chemical Romance will be severed from all of its implications – they’ll simply be a rock band, playing rock songs. “Teenagers” will no longer make you think about your mom and dad being dicks. The Black Parade’s 30th Anniversary Box Set will be a real thing, and it will contain a comic book, a bouquet of nylon roses and four CDs with every outtake and demo worth scrounging, including a cover of The Used’s “Yesterday’s Feelings” that was meant as an inside joke. Things that affect us while we’re young end up affecting us forever.
There was something deeply charitable about My Chemical Romance’s ideology, like the core focus of their songwriting was to simply rev up the children of the early 2000s. There’s never been a rallying cry as wholly universal as, “I’M. NOT. OKAY.” The Black Parade remains perhaps the most inclusive concept album ever written. You’d never mistake My Chemical Romance for the best band in the world, but you’d also be unsurprised when a battalion of kids thought you were full of shit for not thinking so.
When My Chemical Romance broke up with a note on their website. No more than a paragraph, quickly informing us that a past-prime band would no longer be making any past-prime albums. They thanked us for joining them on this “adventure.” I liked that. That’s what My Chemical Romancewas to me, and still is to me. I like listening to other things more than I like listening to My Chemical Romance these days, but in terms of a powderkeg? In terms of a universe you can crawl into? No comparison. I’m only going to get older, but there will always be something deep and reflective within me that wants to join the Black Parade. If I’m being honest with myself, I still feel an urge for that adventure. It’s embarrassing, but that’s fine. It’s still special.
Luke Winkie thinks thoughts on a daily basis and puts them on Twitter - @luke_winkie