My Chemical Romance was a well-worn machine; they created magic in the recording studio and spread the credit to each member of the band. Now that they’ve separated, it’s becoming interesting and far easier to see the individual cogs that held MCR together.
I think it is safe to say that most everyone expected Gerard Way’s first solo album to be a sassy demonstration of his swagger and persona, but considering that he was really only credited with lead vocals on MCR’s albums and on stage, it’s impressive that he can write an album that is just so damn good.
Hesitant Alien sounds as though it is a natural progression out of MCR’s Danger Days; wave after wave of fuzzy guitars, heavy drums, bombardments of bass and a raging synth. There is a dynamic surf-style chord progression to the guitars that keep the songs grungy and charismatic.
This is a common thread throughout the album that makes it sound cohesive, if not slightly similar. The punk aspect that Way has been so familiar with is replaced by driving rock beats that sound more aligned with a heavy indie sound. The addition of random instruments, like a saxophone in “Get the Gang Together” just feels right with the playfulness of the music.
As someone not known for his guitar work, Way seamlessly channels the sound from verse to chorus to intricate and meaningful solos. The fuzz of the guitar doesn’t get in the way of melody or overpower the other instruments. “No Shows” has a heavy rhythm that translates to an energetic jam of an instrumental halfway through. The fuzzed power chords become incredibly soothing against the relentless drums. The bass is heavy, often equally as fuzzy and always popping at the forefront.
As with Frnkiero and the Cellabration, former MCR touring drummer Jarrod Alexander absolutely kills it. He destroys the drums with heavy beats that maintain a hypnotic steadiness that pairs perfectly with the grunge of the guitars and Way’s eccentric vocals.
Vocally, Way delivers the electric performance he is known for. He barks out sharp vocals that sound more comfortable and natural against the pop grunge guitar than the stylized punk rock of MCR. However, that may be the biggest detriment to his voice; it sounds comfortable. While his singing sounds natural and eccentric, he doesn’t seem to be pushing or challenging himself the way that his fans know he oftentimes does. However, given the work he put into writing such balanced songwriting, it’s not surprising that he wouldn’t strain his vocals as much with everything else to concentrate on.
Lyrically, fans shouldn’t expect to find the grand storytelling or deep poetic prose of MCR. These songs are whimsical and simple. They’re easy to sing along to, but don’t carry much weight past the surface level. The verses are sparse, with the brunt of the song relying on the chorus, such as the second verse of “Action Cat”, which is simply, “Every accidental damage I wouldn’t take, every heart I left behind you couldn’t break.”
There are a few charming lyrics though, but they are sparsely hidden. During “Millions”, Way sings, “You believe in love, I believe in faith. They’ll believe in anything, you make up the villains. A trillion legions of the damned and William.” Nothing deep emotionally, but it’s a line that will turn your head. Though the lyrics are pretty basic, they make some great lines to sing over the raving guitars.
Hesitant Alien is a great surprise from an artist not particularly known outside of their vocals and energetic stage performance. The quality of the writing and experimentation is beyond what I imagined Way capable of on his first go as a solo artist, which proves how little I thought I knew about the inner workings of MCR.
The energy, passion and spectacle are alive and thriving on this record. Just like he managed a little over a decade ago, Gerard Way came out swinging to prove to anyone willing to listen that he’s one of the greatest performers of this generation.
by Kyle Schultz
Kyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.
he’s written all the lyrics on all mcr’s albums, each album has been his vision. don’t know what you’re talking about saying he’s only known for his vocals, he was, my chemical romance’s backbone.