Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Sing Out, Louise!

I know I come across like a grumpy old man when I get into one of these rants, but I just don't care. Having read a slew of good-sounding stuff about My Chemical Romance's new album, The Black Parade, and having liked what I heard when they were the musical guest on Saturday Night Live a few months back, I stuck the album on my Christmas list. I was intrigued by the reports of obvious Queen homages, marching band appearances, and a honest-to-God Liza Minnelli guest vocal. Got the disc, and the reports were all accurate - there is a lot of very welcome, big and bold, multi-layered, melodic grand-opera-like rock in this album, along with a lot of the quasi-punk thrashing that I'm assuming was the predominant piece of their sound previously. It's a fun album and I'm glad I got it. But listening to it last night, I realized just how much more potential the album really has.

See, lead singer Gerard Way, like 99% of all modern rock singers, well, isn't much of a singer. His tone is thin and tinny, he needs to yell to hit certain notes, and his lack of technical skill means that he can command little subtlety or phrasing as he sings. Again, this isn't as much a knock on Way as it is a knock on modern rock singing. But whereas most rock singers who can't sing play to whatever strengths they have, the band here has written material that begs out to be sung by a real singer. The big arcing melodies, the theatrical style, all apply not just to the production but to the vocal melodies as well. And Way simply cannot do them justice. This comes across strongly on the lead single and album centerpiece, "The Black Parade," but it also became very clear to me on the wonderful, very Kurt Weill-esque "Mama," which contains the aforementioned Liza Minnelli cameo (which is much briefer than I had assumed - like two bars worth of singing brief). I long ago resigned myself to the fact that the vast majority of rock singers, especially today, simply don't sing, and that I would just have to overlook this if I was to enjoy modern rock music, but every once and a while I am reminded of the fact forcefully.

Until Whenever

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