While many consider My Chemical Romance to be the definitive Emo outfit of the early 2000s, this label is certainly a misnomer. With humble beginnings as New Jersey Punk Rockers in the post-9-11 dystopia, My Chemical Romance have effectively bent genres and manipulated key elements of multiple musical categories in order to further develop their gritty yet melodic fusion of Alternative Rock.
Namely, My Chemical Romance’s 2004 sophomore effort, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge—released on Tuesday, June 8, 2004—has been defined as one of the comprehensive albums of the third-wave Emo era, right up there with Fall Out Boy’s 2005 album From Under The Cork Tree and The All-American Rejects’ 2005 album Move Along. England’s New Musical Express (NME) listed the album as one of “20 Emo Albums That Have Resolutely Stood The Test Of Time,” while Rolling Stone declared Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge the “Tenth Greatest Emo Album” in 2016.
This misnomer is certainly twofold. Simply put, My Chemical Romance became victim to bad marketing and even worse timing. As the aforementioned albums became roped together, due to MTV music video blocks and Hot Topic racks, My Chemical Romance (or simply MCR) became synonymous with the ever-criticized Emo-Punk movement. As lead singer Gerard Way expressed in a 2007 Rolling Stone interview, “Basically, [Emo’s] never been accurate to describe us. Emo bands were being booked while we were touring with Christian Metal bands because no one would book us on tours. I think Emo is f–ing garbage; it’s bulls–. I think there’s bands that unfortunately we get lumped in with that are considered Emo, and by default that starts to make us Emo.”
In order to gain a more comprehensive look at the impact of the band over the span of MCR’s career, just look at the compelling list of their influences: they draw much of their imagery from Horror films, as well as darker Alternative bands from the late ’70s and ’80s such as The Cure, The Smiths, The Misfits, and The Smashing Pumpkins. In another interview with Rolling Stone, Way described their influences: “We love bands like Queen, where it’s huge and majestic, but also bands like Black Flag and the Misfits, who would go absolutely crazy.”
By now, it is well-established that the sonic quality of the sophomore album is beyond one mold. In fact, Three Cheers is more of a Hardcore album than anything else—an abrasive fusion of hard Punk, Hardcore and Metal, with added guttural screaming for good measure. It is a melodic, hard-hitting effort full of dynamic hooks that highlight the outfit’s Pop sentiments juxtaposed with macabre lyricism.
Showcasing an offshoot of Pop-Punk with infusions of Post-Hardcore, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge continued the distinct sound and image of the band that began with 2002’s I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love. All this while also furthering MCR’s use of dark imagery, such as vampires and ghost towns, that scores have cherished, while teasing the theatrics of the album’s 2006 follow-up, The Black Parade. This album is closer to the band’s aforementioned Screamo-tinged debut, but with the theatrical fragrance of The Black Parade. It is an album in transition between the two stages: a battle between DIY New Jersey Punk and ostentatious theatrics, which is what ultimately set them apart from the rest.
Perhaps it is the untrained, unfiltered qualities of Gerard Way’s voice that make the album so intimate; it is raw, unrehearsed, and unnervingly primal. As we experience Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, there is never any doubt that these are Way’s tender and visceral emotions being conjured. His vocals are raw, his sarcasm often biting. He is a young man boldly declaring to the world that he is absolutely not okay, but somehow that’s okay, too. (We promise!)
Drawing from a plethora of influences, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge is the paragon of a band in transition doing it well. Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge has stood the test of time, being one such album that holds up long after third-wave Emo died down. With this single effort, My Chemical Romance became arguably the biggest Rock band to emerge from the Garden State since fellow alt-rockers Thursday and Saves the Day, and still maintain an ever-growing fan base long after their disbanding. While many may still call Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge a standout release in the Emo genre, there is no doubt that the album has shaped the Alternative music scene as a whole for years to come.