The sad thing is, this particular album came out over a year ago, and I'm just know noticing it. I heard one of the tracks from it a while back, and loved it. But thought, "The rest of it can't be that good," so I went on with life.
Well, the other night (while driving "the van"), I took the plunge and listened to the rest of the album online. And was completely blown away.
That album was The Black Parade by My Chemical Romance. Honestly, it was a stretch for me to listen to at first, because I was under a large misconception about what kind of music it was. Look, I LOOOVE rock of all kinds. Except emo-rock. Which I THOUGHT this was. Well let me tell you something: MCR is anything but "emo". But I digress.
The Black Parade is a concept album, similar to The David Crowder Band's Collision. An album where every song is a part of a larger story. In this case, TBP is a rock opera (in every sense of the phrase) telling the story of "The Patient", a man dying of cancer. The album presents the story of his passage out of life, and his subsequent reflection back on his life. It's at times sad, angry, and hopeful (and everything in between).
The sound on the record is very 70's rock anthem mixed with modern punk. From the wiki:
Lead singer Gerard Way has cited the band Queen as a major influence on the album. Similarities have been noted between the guitar orchestration in "Welcome to the Black Parade", and the arrangements of Queen.
Way has also stated that Queen's A Night at the Opera, The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Pink Floyd's The Wall, and The Smashing Pumpkins' album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness as influences.
And it shows. The single "Welcome To The Black Parade" (probably the best known song on the album), is VERY Queen-ish, and every song is extremely well written and performed. There is some bad language on the album (not a lot, though) but honestly, it kinda makes sense, and it's never offensive just for offensiveness' sake. "Welcome" in particular stands out, as it consists of "167 separate tracks mixed together, including marching band drums, multiple snares and a horn section." It creates a literal "wall of sound." Very cool.
There is soooo much to digest here. I've listened to the whole thing straight through 4 times now, and am still hearing new material. I haven't picked a favorite song yet, but it's coming down to "Welcome" for it's creativity, "Famous Last Words" for it's sheer emotion and power, or "Heaven Help Us" (which isn't on the US version, it's on the Japanese import) for it's solid rock factor. Check out a the lyrics to the chorus of "Famous Last Words" (and keep in mind, this is from The Patient's point of view, as he's dying):
I am not afraid to keep on living!
I am not afraid to walk this world alone!
Honey if you stay, I'll be forgiven!
Nothing you can say can stop me going home!
It's interesting, as "Famous Last Words" is final (sort of) track on the album, it kind of leaves the fate of The Patient up in the air. For the entire album you are led to believe he has died, but by the end of the song, you're not so sure: it's so tiumphant and hopeful, it's easy to believe that he has been given another shot at life (MCR intentially made it this way. Thanks a lot, guys!) I'm still not sure where I stand on it.
I know the subject matter sounds extremely morbid and depressing, but it's really not. It's almost an adventure. Sure, there are plenty of very dark spots, but there's also awe, wonder, and even fun.
The creativity and effort put into this album is readily apparent in every track. There is some serious songwriting genius going on here, and sadly lots of people are missing it because it's "just emo punk crap." I know I thought that way, and I was wrong.
BTW: There's lots of places online you can listen to the album, and I'll be posting some videos I've made (or will make) in the near future.