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October 1, 2019 Jukebox Happy Hour

Chemistry Lesson

Stewart Schley

Chemistry Lesson photo

The Black Parade
My Chemical Romance
October 23, 2006
Reprise Records
51:53

 

“Dad: You have to hear this,” my daughter, then 15, told me. I stood behind her in her bedroom, listening to a singer’s reedy voice against a swirl of electric guitars and swollen drumbeats.

“Sometimes I get the feeling she’s watching over me / And other times I feel like I should go / And through it all, the rise and fall, the bodies in the streets / And when you’re gone, we want you all to know.”

Divorce eats you up from the inside out. You feel eviscerated from the belt up. I had legs and arms but no guts, only a vacant cave between ribs. Stumbling forward, willing myself to conduct the impossible daily business of work, commerce, deadlines, email messages, I stepped carefully across a shiny wood kitchen floor, nervous that the surface below me would crumble.

* * *

I bought the CD. A maniacal skeleton danced across the cover. The title was etched in comical typographic grandeur over the image. It seemed designed to captivate 12-year-olds. I was way outside the demographic. But still, I listened to it. Mostly in the car, scurrying to a client’s office, to an interview, to meet friends for golf, to go look at apartments. To sob at stoplights.

* * *

You could hear strains of Queen, the Rolling Stones, some Bowie. All my bands. Plus, the artistry: dual guitars slashing in and out, dense waterfalls of sound, the singer Gerard Way pleading desperately. It’s a dark opera alright, what with the language about funeral jags and chemotherapy, the “bright lights that cast a shadow,” the obsessions with abandonment, cruelty, death. Even “Teenagers,” the silly rave-up squeezed in just before the triumphant “Disenchanted,” evokes a dark threat.

Except: Behind it all, “Parade” yells out for redemption, and somewhere in the murkiness Way, having set up the hopelessness and the inevitability, injects reasons to believe.

“I am not afraid to keep on living / I am not afraid to walk this world alone.”

That chorus, the coda of “Famous Last Words,” which closes the album except for the gimmick bonus “Blood,” pretty much saved me. For two years that album was my faithful companion. I didn’t go a week without listening to it. And for good reason: It let me know I wasn’t done.

Drink: Absolut + tonic and yes on the lime, please.

 

image: Aaron Burch


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