My Chemical Romance broke up Friday night, ending a career that spanned a dozen years and produced some of the most visceral, dramatic rock and roll in recent memory.
There are, of course, the tangible things they leave behind — four studio albums, all of which are excellent (and none of which sound the same), a pair of live records, palettes of pancake makeup and racks of elaborate costumes, and a reel of music videos so epic it should probably be preserved for all perpetuity — and, while impressive, none of those things truly do My Chemical Romance justice. Because they were a band built around intangibles, they were about ideas and actions, hopes and dreams. They eternally existed at the intersection of creativity and conflict. It's the reason they were a great band, and why they'll certainly be missed.
They wanted to change the world, to kill rock and roll then resuscitate it, to use art as a weapon. Maybe they accomplished those things, maybe they didn't, but that's largely beside the point: My Chemical Romance were the rare band that dared to dream big, unapologetically so.
They were literally born out of the ashes of 9/11, as frontman Gerard Way watched the Twin Towers tumble and decided the only way to make sense of the world was to start a band. And over the next decade, he and his mates never seemed to lose sight of that goal: MCR did everything to the max; the played hard and fast, they made concept albums, staged elaborate productions, integrated artwork into their music in ways few bands ever had. In some ways, that's why this split is so shocking — they didn't go out with guns blazing, rather, with a polite statement posted on their web site. But if that's the worst thing you can say about them, well, I'd like to think they're okay with that.
It's odd to eulogize a band that was so focused on mortality; it kind of seems like MCR had been writing their own obituary from the very beginning. So maybe it's best to remember them not for what they did, but what they will continue to do: My Chemical Romance saved lives. Their music and their message brought comfort to those in need, helped outsiders feel a little less alone, shepherded the meek through the darkness and into the light. I know, all of that seems contrived, and perhaps too easy, but it's true. The relationship between MCR and their fans was unlike any I've witnessed in the decade-plus I've been covering rock, and I have the feeling that it will only carry on; the band may be gone, but their songs survive.
Did MCR change the world? Maybe. Did they change lives? Absolutely. I have no empirical evidence to back up that claim, and I probably don't need it. That's intangibility for you ... sometimes, you've just got to believe. If you are in mourning today, chances are you agree with me. My Chemical Romance is dead; long live My Chemical Romance.
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