On a recent episode of MTV’s “Total Request Live,” now more vapid than ever, emo goth-rockers My Chemical Romance stopped in for a visit. The black-clad audience that faced the band when they appeared was stereotypical, but the ideas the band offered while on the show were, surprisingly, not.

Jessica Boullion
“If you wondered whether you could take us seriously, allow this pictue to be your guide” (Courtesy of Reprise)

While the choice to release The Black Parade today, on Halloween, is admittedly a pretty gimmicky move, the band is currently sporting a new look that involves much more artistry they described as being “like Sgt. Pepper’s, but in black.” The band ditched the red eye shadow and high school clique references in favor of a darker, more pulled-together look.

The band worked with Hollywood costume designer Colleen Atwood to create their crisp new look. Lead singer Gerard Way, who is flaunting a new bleach-blonde crew cut that makes him look older and more ghoulish than ever, used to work as an illustrator. After meeting with Atwood, Way handed her a sheaf of drawings that he and his bandmates had conceived, and she produced a series of outfits that made their dark dreams spring to life. Atwood, who has worked on films like “Memoirs of a Geisha,” said in a “TRL” clip that working with the band to design their new look was one of the most fun and successful collaborations of her career.

And believe it or not, My Chemical Romance has made a solid album to go with new outfitting. Given that The Black Parade is a concept record centered on the idea of, well, death, it’s catchy nonetheless.

The band’s buttoned-up, self-proclaimed Sgt. Pepper style is obvious in the music video for their latest single, the title track from The Black Parade, which is one of the best tunes on the album. A slow, creeping intro gives way to a full-on head-banging pop intro, boasting “We’ll carry on / We’ll carry on!” as its resounding chorus.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The spooky album begins with “The End,” a sweeping, swelling interlude that leads right into the first real straight-up rock track. “Dead!,” perhaps the closest the group will come to humorous song titles, stands out as one of the catchiest tunes.

Embarrassing as it may seem, sometimes it just feels good to channel some 14-year-old angst and scream your throat raw on lyrics like “Can’t you hear me cry out to you?” It feels even better when you can sing along with the full knowledge that My Chemical Romance borrows heavily from Pink Floyd on tracks like “This Is How I Disappear.” And it works.

The track “Cancer” reverts to archetypal emo-crap, and it’s embarrassingly sappy. Any guesses for what this one’s about? Luckily for My Chemical Romance, the band doesn’t succumb to maudlin moments like this often, and “Cancer” is just about the only lowpoint on the coolly sinister album.

On the track “Teenagers,” Way sings “Teenagers scare the livin’ shit out of me,” and it’s impossible not to smile. with this kind of sense of humor.

Clear Channel alt-rock stations haven’t had this much fun since The Offspring’s Dexter Holland proclaimed “My friend’s got a girlfriend and he hates that bitch” on the radio during the opening of “Why Don’t You Get a Job.” The lyric “What you’ve got under your shirt / Will make them pay for what they did” is little creepy, but (hopefully) just satirical.

The final track, “Untitled,” showcases Gerard Way at the zenith of his Vaudevillian weirdness. The poky piano line and Way’s sideshow barker impersonation make The Black Parade‘s exit as interesting as its entrance. “I gave you blood, blood / Gallons of the stuff / I gave you all that you could drink and it had never been enough,” Way sings. Whether this vampire-inspired tune lends itself to the whole death and Halloween motif or is part of a forthcoming Red Cross campaign remains to be seen, but the track is kooky and fun nonetheless.

Gimmicks aside, My Chemical Romance have made an unlikely concept album that takes them a step beyond their label as the band of choice for unhappy high schoolers. The Black Parade is a perfect Halloween addition to your emo arsenal, especially because these days the band is out to prove themselves to a larger, older audience. Let’s face it: There are plenty of damaged, overly emotional adults out there who can relate to the dark, shadowy rock on The Black Parade.

My Chemical Romance
The Black Parade

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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