“An album incorporating elements from his old band as well as late 80s Britpop… Gerard Way’s collection of clever and interesting riffs ultimately leaves you wanting more than it delivers.”
When My Chemical Romance broke up in February 2013, the internet was filled with thousands upon thousands of blog posts and tweets from anguished and distressed fans. Here comes some comfort. Ex-MCR frontman and lead vocalist Gerard Way has released an album incorporating elements from his old band as well as late 80s Britpop. On Hesitant Alien he is joined by his former bandmate and brother Mikey Way on backing vocals and one-time MCR collaborator, drummer Jarrod Alexander. The album is packed with little hints and references to Danger Days and Conventional Weapons. Straight off the bat you can tell it’s heavily influenced by Gerard’s MCR contributions, reminiscent of songs like “The Only Hope for Me Is You” from the former, and “Ambulance” from the latter.
“Bureau” opens with a head-noddable tempo, discordant guitars and subtle background noises, like phone ringing tones, towards the end. It’s repetitive, but not in a bad way. The album swiftly moves on to “Action Cat”, with driving power chords and massive, noisy, echoey drums. Is Gerard referencing unrealistic expectations of beauty with the line “we want television bodies that we can keep”? It wouldn’t be surprising considering his cynical take on a lot of popular culture. There are also lots of references to “missing”. Could this be a tribute to his fans or has he been missing the music industry?
“No Shows” is where Gerard’s obsession with Britpop really kicks in – the video is a direct reference to shows like Top of the Pops and Old Grey Whistle Test but with a sci-fi twist under the name Pink Station Zero, complete with intentionally dated lighting and camera effects. The song has an oddly jarring key-change that might appeal to some… but not to me.
“Brother” takes the pounding piano chords and sentimental and sombre yet self-righteous lyrics directly from The Black Parade, but without the influence of the other members marching behind him. “Zero Zero” starts industrial with a Bloc Party-style guitar riff. The song sounds angry at times, getting its message across in traditional doom and gloom style, which should, again, feel familiar to fans returning to Gerard’s music.
“Juarez” has Gerard describing himself as the “heavy metal master”, treading a thin line between pop-rock and deeper, heavier post-hardcore. The song has an attitude, aspiring to stir up the more disaffected teens in his audience.
In contrast, “Drugstore Perfume” starts with a psychedelic swirl that metamorphoses into a stadium anthem that should be a cue for crowds to reach for their phones and lighters. The song slows down again towards the end and smoothly transitions into “Get the Gang Together” which returns to Britpop, with parts sounding like Blur, Elastica and even Sleeper.
“How’s It Going To Be” seems like a bit of a mess, its skipping rhythm is jarring and is in conflict with the rest of the album. Definitely a low point. It seems like a disposable pop track rather than Way’s usual troubled, sardonic opinion on the world. He picks it up slightly with “Maya the Psychic”. It’s certainly an improvement on the previous track but it’s nothing special. It’s lacklustre and leaves you wanting more than it delivers. Not the way to end the album
Gerard Way delivers a collection of clever and interesting riffs but towards the end fails to deliver and seems to be hesitant to give the spark of the first eight tracks to the last three. Almost alienating in fact.
Hesitant Alien is out now on Warner Bros. records.
Way will play the following UK live dates during November:
Nov 05th: Manchester Ritz
Nov 06th: Oxford O2 Academy
Nov 07th: Glasgow O2 ABC
Nov 08th: Cardiff Y Plas
Nov 10th: London Koko