Requested by Coal and Batrat
Going for a cleaner and more polished sound than their debut, and being the moment My Chemical Romance went from being a hybrid of emo and post-hardcore to being the theatrical, gloriously over-the-top blend of styles that would continue through the rest of their career, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge made a massive impact on its release and launched the band straight into fame. Originally conceived as a rock opera about a man sent by Satan to shoot a thousand evil men dead so that he can be reunited with his love – a plotline that began with their debut LP – before more realistic themes about loss as a whole crept into the lyrics, the band throws everything possible at the album and nearly all of it sticks.
Helena begins with the last shred of emo left in the band’s sound being done away with, the broody and dark atmosphere of the intro getting replaced by explosive and energetic pop-punk that feels as though it’s fit to burst with emotion – the song was written about the Way brothers’ late grandmother – without ever feeling like it gets too angsty. The chorus in particular is one of the first stand-out moments of the album, slowing things down slightly in order to put more focus on the (very well-crafted) vocal harmonies and the melody. Give ‘Em Hell, Kid doubles down on the punk influences with a heavy, distorted bassline and pushing the vocals back in the mix for the verses, swinging wildly between raw aggression and a polished, bright-sounding chorus without ever letting the changes be jarring. Despite getting pigeonholed as the ultimate emo band, and doubly so once The Black Parade was released, one of the biggest distinctions about this album is just how much it sounds like the band is having fun with it. Between Gerard Way’s ad-libs and relentlessly passionate vocal deliveries, Ray Toro’s melodic style of soloing and Matt Pelissier’s constant drum fills, it sounds as though even the darker and more aggressive songs such as the goth-goes-emo To the End and the frantic, panicked You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us in Prison – which slowly builds up with what sounds like an electric piano and features the best guitar solo and chorus on the album by far, along with a verse that deserves to be listened to in stereo – were a blast to perform. One of their defining songs and the song that brought a huge amount of attention to the band, I’m Not Okay (I Promise) is slightly out of place with its major key, pop-punk to the core hook – but the band make it their own with a theatrical guitar solo and bridge that owes a great deal to Queen and Brian May, overlaid with enough emotion put into Way’s voice that it skillfully treads the line between genuine hurt and knowing self-parody, all of which turns the song into a glorious burst of (fake) joy and makes it the centrepiece of the album. The energy of the music offsets the band’s lyrics a lot of the time, disguising the darkness or emotion behind catchy melodies and the wall of sound provided by the rhythm section – The Ghost of You is one of the few times the emotion in the lyrics and singing spills over into full-on melodrama however, being the only true ballad on the album and seemingly showing the band’s softer side for a while, until the chorus crashes in as hard as it can without disrupting the flow of the album.
The Jetset Life Is Gonna Kill You is, much like the last song, a big change stylistically as it switches out the speed and flamboyance for a relatively understated instrumental and saves most of the power for the chorus. The bridge is one of the strangest things on the record, featuring subtle autotune effects on Way’s voice to make him sound as though he’s singing with half his mouth underwater, as well as hitting notes and melodies that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Muse album while backed by a twinkly keyboard melody. Following a brief, gentle acoustic interlude, Thank You for the Venom starts off with a straight-up metalcore riff before launching into urgent, breathless verses with an impossibly catchy melody to boot (“hallelujah, lock and load!”) and letting loose with a simple but effective chorus and solo, shaking off the change in tone laid out by the past three tracks with a blast of speed that cements itself as one of the band’s best songs – period. Hang ‘Em High stands out from the others hugely – even more so than the metal riffs in the last song – by beginning with one of the most startling intros the band have ever done, going from spaghetti western-style whistling and guitar to tortured screaming over a black metal instrumental in the space of about fifteen seconds. The rest of it lives up to the weirdness at the start, revolving around a bouncy, bass-drum heavy beat overlaid with out of control riffs and the single hammiest vocal performance on the album…which is really saying something. Following It’s Not A Fashion Statement It’s A Deathwish, a lighter and better produced throwback to their debut album, Cemetery Drive continues the experimentation throughout the second half of the album with a marching beat and more springy guitar, this time taking a restrained approach to match the grief-stricken lyrics – even when the distortion kicks in it doesn’t feel as though as it hits as hard as it usually does. Bringing both the album and the story to an end, I Never Told You What I Do for a Living draws from everything that comes before it for the finale; starting off with a fast, driving first half before a twist in the lyrics changes the pace of the song dramatically, Way’s voice getting more desperate and ragged as it goes on before finally winding down.
One of the best and most exhilarating pop-punk/emo albums out there, along with not having a single dull or forgettable moment throughout its 40 minute runtime, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge is a creative triumph for both the band and the genre(s) as a whole.
Genres… pop-punk, post-hardcore, emo
Best tracks… Helena (So Long and Goodnight), You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us in Prison, I’m Not Okay (I Promise), Thank You for the Venom, Cemetery Drive