Sunday, August 28, 2011
My Chemical Romance and 'Sing'
I listened to an interview with Gerard Way recently in which he expressed some surprise that his recent hit, 'Sing' was chosen for a popular television show called 'Glee'. I echo that, actually because, however irresistable the beat and music may be to the general public, the lyrics actually could qualify it to be chosen as the very epitome of punk music and its essential philosophy.
'If the music drowns you out, Raise your voice every single time they try and shut your mouth...'
The irony, of course, is that the music is so infectious that it is possible there are quite a few who ignore these powerful lyrics and their message. It is the hymn of the counterculture and, like the Black Parade, a declaration of unqualified support for the helpless and the disenfranchised. It serves as a manifesto for any human being, whether child, adult or senior citizen, whose footsteps walk to a different beat, whose heart beats to a different rhythm.
I don't watch shows like 'Glee' but as some one who was introduced to punk in London at a point in time when young native Brits felt they were being pushed out of their own civilisation, forced on the dole and given no hope whatsoever by Queen and Country, I immediately comprehended a fashion that declared, 'We take your rejects and wear them proudly. We'll pierce our ears with safety pins instead of gold because gold is a metal that belongs to those who don't give a toss about us.' As is often the case, the look was picked up by the masses and became trendy, but its original significance was a cosmic sneer at all the accepted values of British culture.
(On a personal level, I have to confess that I never ceased to be one of those who prefer gold, although leather and steel studs have their own ineffable charm as well as practical value when you live in an urban environment where a single girl could find herself with her back up against a wall in a split second. Those bracelets saved my life or at least my personal belongings more than once in their time.)
Back to Gerard Way and MCR...
'Sing it out, Boy, they're gonna sell what tomorrow means;
Sing it out, Girl, before they kill what tomorrow brings.'
In song after song, Gerard writes about the corruption of multi-national, capitalist society but at the same time, he makes a very personal statement. From 'Sing' again:
'I am not the singer that you wanted, but a dancer.
I refuse to answer, talk about the past, Sir.
Wrote it for the ones that want to get away.
The burden of being a cultural icon is a heavy one and can become insufferable at times. You can hear echoes of it in his interviews as well as his songs and even in the title of a live album: 'The Black Parade is Dead!'
The whole point of the Black Parade, of course, is that it ALWAYS was a parade led by the Dead, who no longer can be hurt by the living. Gerard stated a belief that Death came to a person in the form of his/her fondest memory and the nucleus of 'The Black Parade' was a childhood memory of being taken to see a marching band by his father. Like any great artist, however, the universal far transcends the personal in Gerard's work even while his own personal experiences and thoughts remain shimmering threads in a potent tapestry that continues to grow year by year. 'The Black Parade is Dead!' was the public swansong of the performance piece that will live forever in the memories of an entire generation even while Gerard continues to move forward, laying new foundations for new symbols for those who cannot articulate their own deepest feelings or needs.
In many ways, MCR's Black Parade reminded me of Adam Ant and his Highwayman look, with much of the same social philosophy. Adam Ant, however, hid his own personal agony, preferring to keep his music tongue-in-cheek to some extent, a light-hearted romp that epitomised the 'New Romantics' of the 1980s. Both share a charismatic personality and the ability to project an almost ethereal beauty in their dramatic personae. Adam Ant's world came crashing down, but it is not impossible that he will rise once again like the mythological phoenix at some point. On the other hand, perhaps he has no desire to return to the world of music and will move in a different artistic direction.
Meanwhile, Gerard Way has made it clear that public performances are the fuel on which MCR depends for its creative energy, unlike some bands who only perform because it is demanded by their fans. Gerard is a consummate entertainer and I, along with all those who love MCR, have no doubt that the future of the band promises to be as exciting as the past.
Even if 'Glee' bastardises 'Sing' to some extent, it may draw new listeners to MCR.