It’s All Dead Podcast Episode: 008 – The best albums of 2004

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On this episode of the official It’s All Dead Podcast, Kiel Hauck and Kyle Schultz break down their favorite albums turning 10 years old in 2014. The discussion includes classic releases from My Chemical Romance, Underoath, Green Day, Taking Back Sunday, Relient K, New Found Glory and much more. Listen in!

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Posted by Kiel Hauck

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Gerard Way releases new song titled “Action Cat”

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Gerard Way, former lead vocalist for My Chemical Romance, has released a new solo single, titled “Action Cat”.  Way announced recently that he has signed to Warner Bros. Records and will soon be releasing his debut solo album. You can currently buy the song on iTunes and listen to the song below:

What are your thoughts on “Action Cat”? Let us know in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Reflecting on: My Chemical Romance – Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge

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Throughout 2014, we’re going to be looking back on some of the best albums that were released 10 years ago and discussing their legacy. Feel free to share your thoughts and memories in the replies. Enjoy!

I was sitting in a dorm room full of friends when I first heard My Chemical Romance. “You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us in Prison” came on amidst a random playlist and I can distinctly remember the drone of conversation fading away as I focused in on the song. I was enthralled by every word.

Immediately after the track ended, I began frantically asking a friend of mine to whom the playlist belonged about the band. It turns out, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, the band’s sophomore album, had been released a couple of months prior. I quickly purchased the CD and can’t remember listening to much else during that, the fall semester of my junior year of college.

Fair warning: Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge is my favorite album. Thus, you can expect this 10-year retrospective to be full of positive reflection and nostalgic reminiscings. But more than just an album that was formative to my own taste, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge blew out what was left of the floodgates holding back emo from the mainstream.

The reasons for this appear puzzling at first, but become more evident when you dig a little deeper.

***

There’s a true duality to Three Cheers – from the outside, the album is a gritty story of death and revenge, and the band, with their dark outfits, greasy dyed hair and messy makeup, do little to draw in the casual observer. However, there’s a true motive bubbling just beneath the surface.

The band signed to Warner Bros. imprint Reprise Records after their debut, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, and hit the studio with acclaimed producer Howard Benson to record the follow-up. Benson has a track record of adding the necessary polish to push fringe rock bands over the top, making the raw sound of Three Cheers a tad suspect.

Upon further examination, it’s quite clear that a guiding hand lent aid to the band in formulating smashes like “Helena” and “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” – tracks that feature pop choruses without allowing the band to abandon their dark side. There’s a certain charisma to vocalist Gerard Way that was unleashed during the recording of this album that makes this fence-riding possible.

His seething and wailing don’t fit the typical emo mold. Instead, he pushes past those genre expectations with theatrics, something that plays right into the hands of the record itself, and something that was certainly utilized and milked for all it was worth by Benson. This isn’t a case of a band being molded into a shallow shell by a big name producer – this is a collision of two worlds, creating a greater byproduct.

Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge is as oddly accessible as it is rough around the edges. A dark, terrible tale told through a band hitting their stride while being guided toward a larger audience. The aftermath lent itself to an excess of rip offs, but none that could ever match that initial magic.

Aside from Way’s pain-filled, biting poetry, the album is filled with memorable riffs, courtesy of Frank Iero and Ray Toro’s shredding guitars while Gerard’s younger brother Mikey Way lays down brooding bass lines. Many of the album’s best moments are those that didn’t find their way to MTV: A ripping guitar solo on “Thank You For the Venom”, the chilling transition between “The Ghost of You” and “The Jetset Life is Gonna Kill You”, or Way’s haunting shrieks of, “I can’t get the blood off the sheets of my bed” that bring the album to a close on “I Never Told You What I Do For a Living”.

While the album is chock full of incredible individual songs, they are truly all parts of a greater whole. A record released in the midnight hour before digital singles and online playlists ruled the day, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge begs to be heard in its entirety, from front to back. Less a concept album, more a uniquely told story of love, death and revenge, each song tells its own chapter with its own style, ranging from punk to pop to emo to post-hardcore to gothic rock without missing a beat.

While the success of Three Cheers left My Chemical Romance as the poster boys for the new emo wave, the band was never content to fill that role. Only two years later, the band would abandon it all in favor of a new sound and look in the form of rock opera The Black Parade. After that, it was on to the brightly colored laser pop of Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys.

In that abandonment came confusion for many who assumed My Chemical Romance were exactly who they put themselves forward to be. Only in hindsight is it clear that the band itself was an exercise in experimentation – a theatrical display that had a number of very different and very unique stories to tell. Even still, the success of Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge set the stage for all of those stories to be told with an abundance of flair and pageantry.

The fact that the band was able to drench their listeners in a bucket of fake blood amidst a story of death and violence at the outset only serves to further bolster their legacy. My Chemical Romance made no apologies for who they were or what they set out to do, and in doing so, unexpectedly changed the course of the scene and lit a fire under mainstream pop.

At the forefront of it all was Gerard Way – a shy kid who spent his days drawing comic books in his parent’s basement before deciding to front his own rock band. Through the course of the band’s career, he would play several characters on stage with vigor and purpose, but perhaps none more fervent than that of the protagonist of Three Cheers – a role he played so truly that it nearly led to his own demise.

***

Shortly after hearing that first My Chemical Romance song in college, I learned through word of mouth that the band would be playing a show at a small club called The Green Door in downtown Oklahoma City in a few short weeks. The night of the show, I made the nearly-three hour drive to line up in front of the door to see the band play. They had yet to break it big, so the crowd and venue were small, but the buzz was palpable.

That evening, while standing outside the venue in between bands, someone in a jacket with long, stringy black hair and a sock cap walked up and stood next to me against the building and lit a cigarette. It was Gerard Way. We stood next to each other in silence as he smoked. I didn’t know what to say, so I simply enjoyed the moment.

He finished the cigarette, gave me a nod and went back inside. After a moment, I followed suit. I then enjoyed a wildly entertaining, intimate set from a band that would go on to be a favorite of mine to this day. The band played almost every song from the newly released Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge.

Years later, I saw the band during an arena tour after the release of Danger Days. During the set, filled with flames, lights and spectacle, I couldn’t help but remember that day in Oklahoma City where the band was just on the cusp of their breakout. I’ve loved every subsequent release My Chemical Romance created, but none do I hold as dear as Three Cheers – the one that started it all.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Top 10 Summertime Pop Punk Track Ones

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If you’re like us, the first weeks of warm weather and sunny skies provide the perfect opportunity to drive with the windows down and the stereo cranked up. What better way to celebrate the beginning of the spring and summer months than with pop punk blaring from the speakers?

Believe it or not, there was a time when listening to your favorite pop punk songs didn’t include downloading the latest single from iTunes or queuing up a playlist from Spotify. Instead, it meant inserting your favorite CD or cassette tape into the stereo and starting from track one.

That’s why we’re celebrating our favorite summertime pop punk track ones. These are attention grabbing, foot tapping, sing-a-long ready songs that kick of some of our favorite summertime albums. Check out our top 10 below and feel free to chime in with your favorite track ones in the replies!

10. The Fratellis – “Henrietta”

“Henrietta” by the Fratellis is an energetic romp that starts off Costello Music, an album full of singles. From the crisp slap of the high hat, the baritone sax acting as bass and the rickety guitar chords, the song never takes itself seriously and builds the energy right up until the very end. It’s one of the few songs I can think of that has a solo of the band members shouting “Wa wa wa waaaa”, only to be followed by the pub-rock lyrics of, “Clean out the bank and bump off your daddy, you can come live with us amongst the has beens and the addicts”. – Kyle Schultz

9. Relient K – “Chap Stick, Chapped Lips, and Things Like Chemistry”

Back in the day, Relient K were known as the corny goofballs of the pop punk scene. With Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right, But Three Do, the band turned the corner towards a more serious sound, while still keeping the cheekiness that made them so fun to begin with. “Chap Stick” is the perfect example, as the song celebrates one of the greatest of all summertime traditions: a trip to the theme park. Vocalist Matt Theissen even laments losing his phone “to the lake beneath the Batman ride”. It’s a song about youth, summer and the awkward relationships that come along with both. Theissen ends the song with his infamous line, “I don’t want to be perceived the way I am / I just want to be perceived the way I am”. – Kiel Hauck

8. My Chemical Romance – “Helena”

“Helena” became one of the oddest singles to dominate MTV, mostly due to the hypnotizing umbrella dances amidst a funeral, and introduced the world to My Chemical Romance. What it lacks in the polish of MCR’s later work, it makes up for in raw punk energy and Gerard Way’s gorgeous crooning. It’s atmospheric, creepy and commanding as Way sings, “So long and goodnight, so long and goodnight”; a fitting end to a season of energy. – KS

7. MxPx – “Middlename”

“Emotion is my middle name!” Likely one of the most famous opening lines of any pop punk album, these lyrics, courtesy of Mike Herrera, kick off Life in General, one of pop punk’s seminal albums. Driven by the fast-paced drumming of Yuri Ruley, “MIddlename” is a definitive example of the golden age of pop punk, combining the perfect emotional blend of confusion, anger and determination. MxPx has always had a knack for crafting upbeat, in-your-face tunes and “Middlename” is the match strike that ignites an album that bands would be replicating for more than a decade. – KH

6. Green Day – “American Idiot”

“American Idiot” is a quintessential summer song: loud, catchy and extremely pronounced. For being a song with such a simple melody, the chorus of, “Don’t want to be an American idiot, one nation controlled by the media / Information age of hysteria, it’s calling out to idiot America” is legendary. Simply put, it is a song designed from the ground up to blow out car speakers and demand fist pumps in the putrid humidity. If there’s anything that can keep spirits up in the heat, it’s the song that helped relaunch Green Day’s career. – KS

5. Fall Out Boy – “Tell That Mick He Just Made My List of Things to Do Today”

No, we’re not the types to go on and on about how Take This To Your Grave is Fall Out Boy’s best album and everything since has fallen short. However, there’s no doubt that “Mick” is an absolutely killer opening track. From the opening dial tone to the Stump’s belting of “around your throat” to close out the song, it’s a blast of nostalgia from beginning to end. Along with its upbeat feel, the song showcases some of Wentz’ most potent songwriting, including the infamous line, “Let’s play this game called when you catch fire I wouldn’t piss to put you out”. – KH

4. Saves the Day – “At Your Funeral”

“At Your Funeral” by Saves the Day is without a doubt one of the most well known songs in the scene. With the slow build up of twangy plucked strings leading to the brutal ending and shaking guitars, the song is a slow build that ends in absolute melodic madness. For as dark as the lyrics can be, the song is so upbeat and poppy, it’s impossible to not be happy or sing-a-long as soon as the opening sentence drudges out of Chris Conley’s mouth, “This song will become the anthem of your underground”. – KS

3. All Time Low – “Weightless”

The guys in All Time Low were facing a rather big moment in their careers upon the release of their third full length release in 2009, Nothing Personal. Would the band keep the momentum that had propelled them to the forefront of the pop punk scene or hit a speed bump that would send the band crashing back to reality. With the album’s opening track, “Weightless”, one thing was crystal clear – All Time Low was here to stay. The epitome of a summer anthem, this song had just he right amount of pep and positive energy to push the band over the top. Vocalist Alex Gaskarth’s “Maybe it’s not my weekend, but it’s gonna be my year” captures the heart of summer’s dog days for many and provides a dash of hope for the days to come. – KH

2. blink-182 – “Feeling This”

While it isn’t blink-182’s most famous song, “Feeling This” is a great summer song with varying styles and the first hint of the band’s more mature sound. The bouncing guitar blazes past Travis barker’s amazing drumming and intertwines lyrics about a lustful relationship falling into the bedroom, constantly pushed forward by Mark Hoppus’ shouting “I’m feeling this”. The duo toy with R&B elements and pop, holding the signature fury of their signature sound at bay just long enough to build towards a final wave of pop punk the likes of which the genre as a whole hopes to create. – KS

1. Yellowcard – “Way Away”

Before the title track of Ocean Avenue would become everyone’s summer anthem in 2003, “Way Away” proceeded it as the album’s lead single. If those opening notes don’t give you chills, it’s likely a sign that you missed out on this incredible album’s heyday. LP’s drumming, Sean Mackin’s violin and Ryan Key’s belted notes of “Way away away from here I’ll be” scream to be played at full volume with the wind in your hair. Truth be told, this entire album is a summertime experience from start to finish, but “Way Away” kicks things off perfectly. – KH

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

My Chemical Romance stream final song “Fake Your Death”

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My Chemical Romance have released the final song the band recorded together, titled “Fake Your Death”. The song is the first track on the band’s upcoming greatest hits release, May Death Never Stop You.

You can stream the song below:

You can preorder May Death Never Stop You at the official My Chemical Romance website.

What are your thoughts on the song? Let us know in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

4 broken-up bands we’re thankful we had

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Now that 2013 is hitting the home stretch, we thought we’d look back on some of the bands that decided to hang it up this year. Normally, this would be a time of mourning the loss of beloved acts, but instead, we’re choosing to reflect thankfully on the music they provided. Take a look at some of the best bands to say goodbye this year and feel free to tell us what broken-up band you’re thankful for.

My Chemical Romance

The My Chemical Romance break-up announcement earlier this year was sharp, unexpected and especially painful, since it seemed like the band had a lot of life left in them. Alas, that was not the case. Their final release of work, Conventional Weapons, was a collection of discarded songs that were originally recorded for what was to become Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. You can argue for the greatness of just about every album this band released, and they undoubtedly had an enormous impact on not only the scene, but rock music as a whole.

Underoath

Technically, Underoath announced their break-up late last year. However, their farewell tour took place in January of this year, so we’re saying it counts. A band that was truly a pioneer in the post-hardcore genre, Underoath had a knack for creating some of the most sonically intriguing heavy music of the past decade and surely influenced an entire wave of post-hardcore/metalcore bands that have come onto the scene in recent years. Their passion for excellence and their desire to break the mold set them apart and made them one of the most influential heavy bands this scene has known.

Go Radio

Go Radio was a wonderful project for all of the Mayday Parade fans who mourned the loss of Jason Lancaster. However, Lancaster managed to turn Go Radio into something much larger and grander than an offshoot of his old band. Instead, Go Radio would create some of the catchiest and well-made pop rock of the past few years. Their swan song, Close the Distance, is a blueprint of what catchy, intelligent pop rock should sound like and certainly should have resulted in the band’s accent to the top of the charts. Instead, the album passed many by and led to the band’s dissolution. The good news is that Lancaster is far from done making music. Let’s hope his fantastic songwriting carries over to his next project.

The Chariot

The Chariot never experienced the fame and draw that many heavy bands in this scene have garnered in the past decade, which is a real shame. The Georgia mathcore act was unrelenting, releasing five solid albums including 2010’s Long Live – a classic in the genre. The band’s wild live performance accompanied by Josh Scogin’s passionate and desperate roar set the band apart from many wannabe acts that cashed in on the metalcore extravaganza of the late aughts. The Chariot blazed a trail of technical, thoughtful hardcore music that cuts to the core and creates a sonic atmosphere far deeper than what you might expect.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.