2022 marks the 12th anniversary of My Chemical Romance’s last studio album, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. In my reflection on the album, I acknowledged its importance in the band’s lives and how it inspired me to charge forward in the world in a no holds barred manner. Below, I discuss my favorite themes within each song.
The tale of Danger Days is told through the eyes of the Killjoys, four teenagers or young adults–depending on the source material–who aim to take down the evil mass corporation Better Living Industries, also known as BLind. BLind’s primary purpose is to homogenize the future to curate the perfect world at the cost of personal freedoms and autonomy. The leader of the Killjoys is Mike “Party Poison” Milligram (Gerard Way), followed by the astronaut helmet-wearing Jet-Star (Ray Toro), the kung-fu guru Kobra Kid (Mikey Way), and radically chill Fun Ghoul (Frank Iero). There’s a deeper layer to the story involving a young child prophesied to be the savior of the future California dystopia of 2019, but to keep it simple, this is all you need to know. Oh, and the album’s narration is done through pirate radio transmissions from Dr. Death Defying, who acts as the North Star for all the rebels waging war against BLind. Throughout many songs on the tracklist, listeners learn that the Killjoys do not fuck around; they are brave, noble, and ready to die for a worthy cause. They nurse a vendetta and aim to shoot first and ask questions later, all while having reckless and dangerous fun in the process. In Danger Days, the listener gets to live the life of an outlaw as they go out in a blaze of glory.
Of Gun Fights and Philosophy
These tracks highlight the best of the album’s thrashy, aggressive party synth sound and are the best in highlighting certain aspects and battle-ready mantras of the Killjoys.
Track 2: “Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)”
Imagine this. It’s 2019 in the Californian dystopia, where blankets of sundried desert sediment house scorpions, rats, and any son of a bitch (or outlaw) with a vendetta against the further homogenization of the surviving species. It’s a place where “the future is bulletproof” and “the aftermath is secondary.” It’s a place where you fight or die trying. “Na Na Na” is a scuzzy riff track reminiscent of classic rock and a throwback to (mostly) nonsensical lyrics (think: the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop”) about the atmosphere of this loosely-based concept album. But more importantly, it introduces and solidifies that the Killjoys shoot first and ask questions later. You simply do not fuck with them, lest you want to live to see another day.
Track 5: “Planetary (GO!)”
Pulsating sirens, stuttering guitar licks, chaotic drums, and heavy sighs, this song undoubtedly fucks. About creating the piece in an interview, the band confessed to using a strobe light to help inspire the flavor of the beat. It’s a pop-punk dance track that sounds happy on the surface; however, on closer examination of lyrics such as: “I can’t slow down, I won’t be waiting for you. I can’t stop now, because I’m dancing. This planet’s ours to defend, ain’t got no time to pretend. Don’t fuck around this is our last chance” or “They sell presentable, young, and so ingestible, sterile and collectible; safe, and I can’t stand it. This is a letter, my word is a Beretta, the sound of my vendetta against the ones that planned it”, you can see the singer is upset about the state of the world and is deliriously energized by his violent ideations of corporate takedown.
Track 8: “Party Poison”
While every member of the Killjoys gets their own track dedication (except for Fun Ghoul), Party Poison is introduced directly by song. You see, Party Poison seems to suffer from ego-driven self-destructive tendencies; he will go out with a bang on his own terms. The music starts with “Everybody pay attention to me. I got the answers.” Similar to “Planetary (GO!)”, this song also has an upbeat electric guitar twang before ending in complete disarray. But unlike the other songs, this one is straightforward. Despite the moniker Party Poison, he is not here for our enjoyment; he’s here to tell us to get the fuck up and join him in the rebellion against capitalism. You can hear this sentiment as Way shouts, “This ain’t a party – get off the dancefloor. You want the get down? Here comes the gang war.”
Love in the Time of Dystopia
One does not usually decide to take on the world unless they’ve got something – or someone–to fight for. Who are the Killjoys willingly giving up their lives for? And what romantic prayers are they sending just before they come face to face with their potential deaths?
Track 3 “Bulletproof Heart”
This track leans into the intergalactic nature of the Killjoys. As the song starts, listeners are enveloped by the tinny chimes of guitar picking, shooting lasers, and Way’s overlapping space-age vocals. The opening lyrics set the tone of the group’s mindset, “Gravity, don’t mean to much to me. / Let’s blow a hole in this town. / Gunning out of this place in a bullet’s embrace, then we’ll do it again.” In an album about rebellion and defiance, this song acts as the thesis statement with a slightly romantic twist: Way imagines a less violent path for the future where he can “run away” with his crew or his lover instead.
Track 6: “The Only Hope For Me Is You”
Intermittent sounds of synthesizers and twitchy guitar pick-ups at the start guide the listeners into what I would call the saccharine last words of a dying lover. Way’s voice fades in and out over the distorted intro as he softly croons and echos, “Remember me.” The rest of the song plays out as an intimate reflection on all the death and destruction he’s seen in his life. He repeatedly mentions that the only reason he continues to survive, despite the immense pain and trauma of living, is derived from his partner. After this admittance, the song fades out the same way it began with the haunting echoes of remembrance.
It’s also interesting to note that after this song ends, the album’s host, a pirate radio DJ named Dr. Death Defying, announces that Jet-Star and the Kobra Kid die in battle on a fictional highway called Route Guano.
Track 11: “Summertime”
“Summertime” breaks through the crumbling fourth wall of the album’s unruly hedonistic theming. It’s a melodic love song focusing directly on Way’s love life and personal demons as he calls out, “Don’t walk away. If you stay, I would even wait all night or until my heart explodes. How long until we find our way in the dark and out of harm, you can run away with me … any time you want.” I would argue that next to “DESTROYA”, “Summertime”’s affected pauses make the song’s lyrics much more potent and meaningful.
Nostalgic National Anthem
These two songs weave in and out of the overall concept. They act more as self-reflective pieces or words of advice for the next generation.
Track 4: “Sing”
This was the album’s second single, the first being “Na Na Na”, and it was undeniably catchy enough to become a cover song on Glee. “Sing”’s composition of bombastic drums and scratchy guitar–mixed with an unshakeable chorus–evokes power in the listener to use their voice against oppression. Way belts: “Sing it for the boys, sing it for the girls, every time that you use it, sing it for the world. Sing it from the heart, sing it ‘til your nuts, sing it out for the ones that will hate your guts. Sing it for the world.” It’s the album’s most directly political song.
Track 9: “Save Yourself, I’ll Hold Them Back”
“Save Yourself, I’ll Hold Them Back” is my favorite song on the album. It’s an energetic battle hymn that opens up with the hum of lasers and shredding guitar that crescendos as Way’s vocals unleash a hefty roar that sets the scene for the Killjoys’ final battle: “I hope you’re ready for a firefight because the devil’s got your number tonight.”
The song acts as an oral history and a cautionary tale about the headstrong Killjoys. Way croons, “I’ll tell you how the story ends, where the good guys die and bad guys win.” And as a tongue-in-cheek message of faux immortality: “We can leave this world, leave it all behind./We can live forever if you’ve got the time.”
Track 13: “The Kids From Yesterday”
This song leans heavily on nostalgia. Like “Summertime”, the track forgoes the album’s theme to reflect on the band members’ personal lives. The song opens with kids joyously yelling, chain fences clanging, and waves of airy “ooohs” from the band as they sing. Way weaves a heartwarming tale about the innocence of adolescence and all the childhood aspirations one has before the harsh realities of adulthood kick in. Grab the tissue for the lyric, “You only live forever in the lights you make/You only hear the music when your heart begins to break.”
Sgt. Killjoys Experimental Hearts Club Band
Grab the shrooms because these songs defy definition or organization.
Track 10: “S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W”
This song is a fun mixed bag on the album. Sure, it can exist on a playlist outside of the album, but don’t be surprised if someone rightfully questions what kool-aid the band was drinking in the making of this song. It also earns its own specialization because the track is the most in theme. In Killjoys’ lore, Scarecrow refers to highly skilled assassins run by BLind industries to lay waste to any problematic outlaws. So, it makes sense that they would be after the Killjoys. However, this song is not entrenched in darkness or fear but has a psychedelic pop vibe reminiscent of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, namely “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Way, as Party Poison, warns the rest of the Killjoys and whoever else to “Move your body when the sunlight dies” and to “Hide your body from the Scarecrow.” It’s a trippy and otherworldly song about love, bombs, and running from the law.
Track 12: “DESTROYA”
This song is best described as primal rock that overloads the senses. At first, the song begins with comforting, rhythmic, hollowed tribal hand drums but before long, a cymbal crash ushers you into chaos. There is no comforting message about love, only superstition, paranoia, and survival as the Killjoys lean into their destruction and nihilism to guide them to the final battle: “You don’t believe in God, I don’t believe in luck. Against the sun, we’re the enemy.”
Track 15: “Vampire Money”
The last song on the album officially breaks the fourth wall in a direct way that the others do not. As the song begins, Way calls out to each band member by name to ask them if they are ready to perform their super-meta song about their refusal to participate in the Twilight saga soundtracks. Way’s ability as a songwriter shines here with his tongue-in-cheek lyrics that showcase the ironies of living in Los Angeles (the movie capital of the world), being a part of one of the most popular bands in the world, and still wanting to cash in on the latest craze. In a way, it’s almost like a spiritual successor to “Early Sunsets Over Monroeville,” which Way also wrote in response to his love for the Romero film Dawn of the Dead. It’s a perfect rock ‘n’ roll dive bar sound to close out the album.