LOUDER REVIEWS: 'Electric Century' - Electric Century
Whilst the world waits for a time when the newly re-formed My Chemical Romance can actually deliver their long-awaited worldwide reunion tour, the bands’ members have certainly not been sitting twiddling their thumbs! Guitarist Frank Iero and his band the Future Violence have recently released their new EP ‘Heaven Is A Place, This Is A Place’; and Gerard Way, in addition to his work on Netflix's adaptation of 'The Umbrella Academy', has also been working on a new comic ‘The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys’, the story which informed the branding for the band’s final album, 2010’s ‘Danger Days’. And now, bassist Mikey Way (Mikey fucking Way to those that know him best) - alongside his former bandmate Ray Toro, who lent his production expertise to the record - has unveiled his own lockdown project – ‘Electric Century’ the new self-titled album from his post-MCR musical project.
Far from emanating the crunching riffs and plaintive melodrama which embodied the works of My Chemical Romance, this project indulges in the unpredictable minefield that is pop-centered electronica. In fact, even classifying this album as electro-pop does it a disservice. Way rattles through a whole host of different influences here, each bringing with it its own unique atmosphere.
The opening few tracks are purely synth-driven, with a sense of the heady joy of having creative freedom at their heart. Opener ‘Till We’re Gone’ kicks in with darkly rumbling synths, that break into a galloping chorus that is kept ticking over by a rattling shaker. The whole track feels as though it is racing along, riding on top of the guttural rattling of an old motorcycle – almost, in a way, a matured version of one of the tracks from ‘Danger Days’, yet somehow full of even more soaring, sky-gazing vitality. It’s successor, ‘Voices’ boasts lilting vocals drenched in barely detectable reverb that gives them an otherworldly quality, which is futuristic and technological in its style, making the band almost out to be like Kraftwerk’s far poppier, less-utterly-terrifying cousin! What should have been a fist-pumping chorus does get a little buried in the myriad of synths which draw out some of its power, but it remains an enthralling listen all the same.
However, across the record, there is also a hint of a minor key splashed over each of the melodies. This is not heady electronica; instead, it has an introspective quality to it which gives it a heart more akin to gleaming, jet-black onyx than a blazing fireball. Pace is achieved throughout on ‘Let Me In’, yet the lyrics are profoundly downcast, and the chorus is deliberately left without the little more bass that I could use to really give it the attack that it deserves. The candid lyricism is brought right to the fore on ‘I’ll Be Fine’, which is beautifully simple in its crafting, with the mournful strings and occasional emphasis from the drums the only accompaniment to the baleful acoustic guitar. Similar in tone but different in style is ‘Dope Sick’, where rippling synth notes float in the foreground of the mix, effervescing a quiet calm which marries perfectly with the stunning vocals in the chorus vocals in the chorus, which floating alongside the most goosebump-inducing harmonies. This is brooding alt pop at its very best, where soaring melodies fit perfectly alongside uninhibited lyrical truths.
Perhaps the best example of this, however, comes in the record’s closing stages, with the arrival of ‘Free to be OK’. It begins with just Mikey’s vocals ringing out on their own, with only a pulsing kick drum to hammer them home. Yet, before long, the most indulgent pop-rock melody bursts into life, underlining the joyful and emphatic nature of the lyrics. This is the story of a life freed from expectation and image, allowing Mikey to fully embrace the new path that is laid out before him. No longer will he stand for absoribing the pain of those who shoved him, kicking and screaming, onto his pedestal; instead, he is embracing all the love and beauty that his new life has to offer – and, for those who have been truly inspired by his journey, that is all you could ask for.
If we are talking the best tracks across the whole album, however, then ‘Free to be OK’ is pipped to the post by what must be crowned as one of the highlights of Mikey Way’s entire musical career: ‘Alive’. The sombre opening piano notes suck all of the eclectic pace out of the record, as the simply delightful harmonies flow around you like a soft, comforting blanket. The lyrics are profoundly sentimental, and one cannot help but hear echoes of the struggle faced by Mikey’s brother Gerard during the latter part of the pair’s time in My Chemical Romance. Gerard’s mental and physical health was suffering hugely towards the end of the band’s first run together, and the heartfelt plea for the song’s subject to go home and just live rather than burn out in a blaze of glory is enough to bring a tear to anyone’s eye. Whilst the music world is delighted that My Chem are back together again to perform, this track is a stark reminder of the lessons that have to be learnt if we are to avoid repeating the past. For many who have followed the lives of the Way brothers religiously over the past two decades, the reason they felt such a kinship with them was because they could relate to the vulnerabilities and insecurities that My Chemical Romance were expressing in their music. However, this time around, it is up to those same people to uplift and support their idols, as they did for their loyal fans for so many years. The days of giving them all our poison and pills, all our broken hearts, and making them ill, are over. And I, for one, could not be happier about it.
'Electric Century' is out now - stream the record here:
Check out the video for 'Till We're Gone' below:
Alongside the album, the band have also released an exclusive graphic novel through Z2 comics - order your copy here: