Release Date: Sep 30, 2014
Record label: Reprise
Genre(s): Alternative/Indie Rock
Former My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way has never been afraid to do things his own way, whether that means playing dark, theatrical rock when everyone else is playing poppy, radio-friendly material or making a Brit-pop record when the genre has long since disappeared from the airwaves. On Hesitant Alien, Way returns to his childhood influences of Brit-pop and shoegaze to produce a solid solo debut that will please both new fans and My Chemical Romance diehards. Hesitant Alien is stacked with one anthemic track after another.
The very title of Hesitant Alien conjures memories of David Bowie, just like how the album artwork evokes the Thin White Duke's iconic cover for Heroes (which was later repurposed for Bowie's own The Next Day). Such deliberate allusions are Gerard Way's sly nod to his audience, an admission of how he belongs to an art-punk tradition that stretches back several decades, but his first solo effort after the disbandment of My Chemical Romance isn't a re-creation of the glory days of glam. Way does indulge in T.
Gerard Way’s former band, My Chemical Romance, will always have the dubious honour of being dubbed “the sinister cult of emo” by an outraged Daily Mail. However, the singer’s solo debut blasts off somewhere else entirely. With his trademark red hair now sculpted into a shorter mop of flame, Way is dipping into the music he grew up with – particularly David Bowie circa TVC 15 and the Britpop energy of Suede and Supergrass.
In August, Gerard Way admitted to NME that he disbanded My Chemical Romance in 2013 because life had led him to a “dark place” where he was “self-medicating to get through”. Unable to cope after the release of their 2010 album ‘ Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys’, he turned to alcohol. Then, having built a career on being the pasty-faced poster boy for a generation of teenage angst, he decided to aim for an older crowd.
My Chemical Romance announced their breakup in March 2013, but one could sense that the end was near as early as 2010’s Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. A concept album in the same mold as the band’s platinum-selling The Black Parade, Danger Days seemed a tad procedural, as if frontman Gerard Way and his bandmates had run out of ways to top themselves. And so they adopted hamfisted alter-egos like “Party Poison” and named their lead single “Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)”, which reads less like a title and more like the sound of a creative engine chugging to a stop.
The Black Parade and the Danger Days are long gone: On his solo debut, My Chemical Romance's former frontman has morphed into a Marc Bolan-ish Hesitant Alien, with plenty of fuzzy guitar and surprisingly subdued vocals. Dabbling in glam is a clear progression for Way following MCR's exploration of Tommy-esque concept albums and Stooges-inspired Seventies garage punk on their last two LPs. Way is best when he combines his new direction with his essential earnestness: His emotional delivery drives highlights like ''Millions'' and ''Drugstore Perfume.'' Elsewhere, though, the disc isn’t urgent enough to pack the same punch as Way's best work.
“The whole thing largely feels like a British album,” Gerard Way said recently of this debut solo venture. “I was able to bring out my Britpop influences tremendously.” The former My Chemical Romance frontman has stuck true to his word on a record packed with 90s sounds. The heavy guitar riffs and distorted vocals on opening track Bureau are a nod to Supergrass, the fuzz pedal on single No Shows is Lush-era shoegaze.
Whether you marched in step with My Chemical Romance's Black Parade or scoffed from afar at its merrily melancholic pomp and circumstance, you must credit Gerard Way for committing so relentlessly to the part. As MCR wound down, Way cut a curious figure. When I saw him onstage at a festival in 2011, he was going through the motions beneath a shock of pink hair and an overcast sky.
Back when My Chemical Romance were still working on their ill-fated fifth album, Gerard Way was working on some songs for his own enjoyment. He referred to those works as “small music,” because they fell outside MCR’s need to make big gestures with massive production values. With the release of Hesitant Alien, Way will have to upgrade his output to a bigger capacity, considering the stylistic breadth going on across these 11 tracks.