A Vigil, On Self-Destruction and Salvation: 12 Years of ‘Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys’ 

Courtesy of Reprise Records/My Chemical Romance

Somehow, it’s been 12 years since legendary rock band My Chemical Romance dropped their fourth and last studio album Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. At the time of its release, it boasted a futuristic concept that featured a gang of misfits, known as the Killjoys, waging war against mega-conglomerates and their flunkies on the outskirts of Battery City, a deserted Californian wasteland in 2019. And honestly, upon reflection just over a decade later, the world of the album is nearly prophetic to the times we’re living in today– what did Gerard Way, Frankie Iero, Ray Toro, and Mikey Way know, and when exactly did they know it?

Although Danger Days was not well received by critics, nor by fans entranced by their ultra-successful album The Black Parade (2006), Danger Days still shines just as bright, if not brighter, since its debut 12 years ago. Forged during a tumultuous and chaotic time in the band’s personal life, Danger Days’ divergence from My Chemical Romance’s former theatrics was both jarring and a refreshing kick in the pants that the band needed to survive their struggles. In an interview with Spin Magazine about the making of Danger Days, Toro explained the emotional aftermath of the strenuous Black Parade tour, “I really feel like going into this record, when we started it in February, really was the rebirth of the band. And I think the band hadn’t felt alive for a very long time after we finished touring with Black Parade.”  

Three years and one World Contamination Tour later, Danger Days would come to pass as only a temporary salve for the marching skeletons that still trampled on their spirits, namely that of frontman Gerard Way. In 2013, Gerard penned a break-up letter introspectively titled A Vigil, On Birds and Glass, where he talked about his crippling depression, anxiety, and a relapse into old habits that led to him flipping the killswitch on My Chemical Romance as a whole:

Courtesy of Reprise Records/My Chemical Romance

“Fatalism[…] is very important. My Chemical Romance had, built within its core, a fail-safe. A doomsday device, should certain events occur or cease occurring, would detonate. I shared knowledge of this ‘flaw’ within weeks of its inception. Personally, I embraced it because, again, it made us perfect. A perfect machine, beautiful, yet self-aware of its system. Under directive to terminate before it becomes compromised. To protect the idea–at all costs. This probably sounds like something ripped from the pages of a four-color comic book, and that’s the point. No compromise. No surrender. No fucking shit. To me, that’s rock and roll. And I believe in rock and roll. […] My Chemical Romance is done. But it can never die. It is alive in me, in the guys, and it is alive inside all of you. I always knew that, and I think you did too. Because it is not a band–it is an idea.”   

They say that the most personal is the most creative. It’s these ideas of determinism, relentlessness, and self-destruction that are at the very heart of what would become their last album. Even the way Gerard lovingly ends his letter eerily echoes the same sentiments found on the Danger Days tracks “Save Yourself, I’ll Hold Them Back” and “The Kids From Yesterday,” in which, the prophetic vibes strike again: 

“They say, we’re never leaving this place alive.

 But if we sing these words, we’ll never die.” 

And

“Well, now this could be the last of all the rides we take,

so hold on tight and don’t look back.

We don’t care about the message or the rules they make,

I’ll find you when the sun goes black.

You only live forever in the lights you make.”

Courtesy of Reprise Records/My Chemical Romance

Perhaps we didn’t know it at the time, but now saddled with a 12-year-long reflection, this album is arguably the band’s most personal and effective album to date. Drenched in gasoline, glamorama, and aggressive party rock, Danger Days has a little something for everyone. In songs like “Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na),” you’ve got something to bang to. In “DESTROYA,” you’ve got something to gang to.  And with “Summertime,” you’ve got something to feel through. Sure, Danger Days is not as melodramatic as its predecessor, The Black Parade, nor is it as vengeance heavy as Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge (2004) or angsty as I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love (2002), but it is a straightforward, no holds barred record laced with filling the listener with passion, fire, and hope for a nearly impossible future. It’s an effigy built on reconciling with self-destructive tendencies and achieving salvation from personal demons in the various facets of our lives. 

It’s an album with charged-up lyrics like, “Make no apology, it’s death or victory,” and introspective flare such as, “If what you are is just what you own, what will you become, when they take from you, almost everything?” 

This album, despite its loose futuristic Mad Max-esque setting, is not here for theatrics. It’s unsheathed, in your face, down to clown, and here to tussle rock that is pure and fun. Sleeping on this album is a huge mistake. 

Courtesy of Reprise Records/My Chemical Romance

Personally, Danger Days is my favorite My Chemical Romance album. And yes, I know that’s an unpopular opinion, but I’ve been a fan for these 20 years, which also means I’ve been listening to them since I was 9 years old, I don’t know what that says about me… but I digress… to say that I love each of their albums as if they were my sentient children. However, there’s something incredibly relatable about the vibe of Danger Days that speaks to me.  It’s an album that fortified me in the belief to be daring in every aspect of my life, despite what others might think. (“Who cares if we lose the war? Let the walls come down. Let the engines roar”). It’s an album that helped me comprehend that your traumas do not define you. (“Leave a dream where the fallout lies. Watch it grow where the tearstain dries”). It’s an album that taught me to keep running despite all of life’s cruel obstacles. (“Girl, you’ve got to be what tomorrow needs”). I curse the band’s name to the sky in eternal gratitude each time it plays on my stereo. This album is a timeless gift beyond measure. 

Stay tuned for an upcoming track-by-track review of Danger Days, where I dive into my favorite themes found within each song and the overall cohesion of the album. Until then, keep runnin’.

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