Why My Chemical Romance’s American Tour Is Good For Rock Music
The return of My Chemical Romance to the live stage has resulted in a lot of discussion about the resurrection of emo. Emo is no longer a bygone series of haircuts, but a movement that the world lived through, a cultural era that is now alive again. With this comes the inevitable reaction, the nonsensical hailing that ‘emos can fuck off’, ‘real rock and metal will always survive’, ‘MCR were never cool’, and so forth. Now, with the band having just announced a huge North American tour – arguably their first true, traditional tour since reuniting in December – talk of both emo’s triumphant resurrection and, alternatively, how much it sucks will be on the lips of most of the music-listening world.
But the truth is, My Chemical Romance’s live return, and their upcoming American tour, is good for rock across the board. From modern party punk to old-school death metal, all of rock’s subgenres and niches are going to benefit from this tour. And even if they hate the band’s music, fans of rock and metal should be stoked.
It’s understandable why certain rock and metal fans became sour on My Chem and bands like them – but it wasn’t MCR’s fault. When the band blew up, labels and managers did what they always did and snapped up any bands with black hair and a penchant for bloodied suits, regardless of whether or not they were any good. Meanwhile, new bands looking to blow up and old heads trying stay relevant felt pressured to include echoes of emo and goth-punk into their music. Sure, there were some kids who took the fashion to absurd lengths or were more about posting neon-colored Deviantart Photoshops than they were about the music, but these were often specific cases that got blown out of proportion.
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If anything, My Chemical Romance brought a lot of pretty metal imagery and art to the forefront. From the get-go, the band celebrated blood, knives, vampires, bats, vampire bats, corpses, skeletons, Halloween and medical horror – all things that bands like Deceased and Mortician have championed for ages. The Helena video has a danse macabre in it, for fuck’s sake. Just because the guy singing about these things had big shiny eyes and nice cheekbones doesn’t discount that he brought a lot of that imagery to the front lines of pop culture. While underground punk and metal fans may have instantly recognized the differences between that and their interpretation of these things, the world at large began accepting and even celebrating the dark side.
That’s perhaps what most rock fans need to understand: to the world at large, fans of darkness are one. We like our personal brands of wickedness to stand out as unique, but the truth is that for the daylit world – whose idea of a good time involves showing off its new Lulu Lemons on TikTok – the frostbitten cruelty of extreme metal and the bloodstained lips of emo aren’t that far apart. And while those cultures may not have the same ideals at every turn, the acceptance of one on a broad scope means more opportunities for the other. To put it another way, the more black-clad My Chemical Romance fans that venue owners see prowling around their bar, the better chances a band dressed like Nifelheim have at booking a show there.
This was made very clear by the video My Chemical Romance used to announce their American tour, titled A summoning… Directed by Kris Mercado and executive-produced by Gerard Way and Ray Toro, the video is not only an epic tribute to the band’s visual history, but also to the booming modern scene of dramatic occult horror, as well as the old-school satanic panic-era horror of the 1980s. The opening – in which a young boy in a cape and hood summons a gateway into the Romanciverse via a Ouija board and backwards record – could easily have also introduced a black metal or synthwave video. Hell, the skull-faced phantom the band have used in the posts announcing their UK shows looks a lot like Taake’s Hoest.
But this isn’t just about wearing black and watching horror films, it’s about driving riffs and sweaty venues. Not only does the world at large conflate My Chem’s darkness with that of other dark cultures, they recognize My Chem as representatives of loud-ass guitar-based music. What’s good for MCR is good for Knocked Loose, and Spanish Love Songs, and Acid Witch. It displays to the world that rock music – especially that which deafeningly confronts topics most people want to look away from – is important, and that it means something to even those people who aren’t allied with the culture. If My Chemical Romance’s tour means that every rock and metal bar at every town they stop in gets more money, and that local rock bands from those cities get more shows, then it’s a win no matter what.
My Chemical Romance may not be your thing, and that’s fine, but if you’re a fan of all things morbid and weird, or even just of the roaring power of rock’n’roll, then this tour will help you in the long run. While you may not attend any of these shows, tens of thousands will, and when the outside world notices, you’ll be able to find indie horror movies, affordable Doc Martens, and awesome local gigs with greater ease than you did before. Yes, you may have to arch an eyebrow when your auntie asks if you like My Chem at the holidays, but at least she’ll have something the two of you can talk about. Even if we’re flying different banners, we’re all on the same side.
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