Thursday, March 28, 2013

My Chemical Memoriam

Music is something that is incredibly important and emotional for me and something that I don't think I've discussed before, aside from I listen to it while I paint. So, let me start with this; music is vital to me. For as long as I can remember, I've been listening to music. Be it classical and country with my dad or whatever was on the top 40 80's radio with my mom, I grew up on it and with it. It would not be outside the scope of my emotional connection to music to say that I don't think I could live without it. I need it and it affects me in massive ways. Just ask Joe how many songs I can't listen to regardless of their lyrical content because their sound alone makes me curl up in the fetal position and weep. Add in lyrics that hit my heart the wrong way? Oh boy. Then ask him how many I crave to lift me up. It's sort of insane, honestly.

By the time I was in the 4th grade, I had already carved out my own musical tastes and had quite the collection of vinyl and cassettes. (Cassettes!) My collection included a little bit of everything that made me smile or that I enjoyed the beat of - from Cyndi Lauper to Nirvana to White Zombie to Meatloaf. I was also a band geek; my childhood friend Jason and I constantly battled to be first chair clarinet and often had to share the title between us. At that point in my life, music was even more important to me than art. I remember getting my first ever CD, Green Day's Dookie (good thing we didn't have those pesky "parental advisory" labels when I was growing up, or my collection would have been very small, indeed.) and listening to it non-stop.

In to my early teens, if you wanted to find me, you'd first look in my bedroom where I'd spend hours with my stereo on and a book in my hand. Failing that, look out in the yard and surrounding woods; chances were good I'd be perched on a rock or in a tree with my headphones on. Songs began to move me in new ways, the lyrics would feel as if they were written for my particular situation, a particular chord would bring me to tears or make me laugh. Everyone just chalked it up to hormones. (Oh, dammit. Is she crying while listening to that song again? Damn hormones.) But it wasn't, because I've never grown out of that.

When my life started to spiral out of control in my late teens, I turned once more to music to help me through. Knowing me as you do, most people will probably wonder why I didn't turn to art. And the thing is, during that time, I gave it up almost entirely because I didn't have the time to balance that with the day to day juggling act of working two jobs, going to school, mediating a divorce, battling addiction and depression and trying to care for my siblings. It took up precious time that I didn't have. And so, I turned to another very deep passion of mine. I shelled out ludicrous amounts of money to go to big shows and tagged along with friends who were in bands to local ones. And it was at one of those local shows, I saw My Chemical Romance for the first time. And I'm not going to lie; I wasn't impressed. In fact, I was so unimpressed that I completely forgot about them.

Until I had hit rock bottom; the cutting, the drinking, the depression were all out of control. I had given up on art, music and most of my friends; all of those things that were so vitally important to me. I was wallowing at the bottom of a black hole and saw no light. I was driving to work one morning, the radio was on as it usually was but I wasn't paying much attention... until this song came on:

For the first time in months, I sat up and paid attention. When it was over, I wanted to hear it again. I needed to hear it again. I called a friend and asked him who the hell they were. His response? "Those guys? I played with them a few times before, remember? They're fucking terrible." Realization dawned on me and I remembered, I also stormed in to our local record store and bought "Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge" and their first album "I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love", effectively running late to work and not even caring. And you know what? They weren't terrible. They were like sexy ass rock and roll angels sent to give me a fucking rock to cling to. And cling I did. I listened to their albums so much, I'm surprised I didn't wear them out. In their songs, I found bits of myself again and I felt things aside from just cold and depressed for the first time in too long. I cried it out, screamed it out, danced it out.

A few of my friends (including the aforementioned former friend) absolutely made fun of me for liking them so much, calling them trite emo garbage and tween goth rock. I didn't give a flying fuck. Here was this band, from the same area as me, only a year or two older than me, going through and working out a lot of the same shit as me. They made me feel less alone and like there was going to be a light at the end of the tunnel afterall. They dredged up darkness and fought it off again with their songs and it was so powerful, so hopeful despite all the angst and rage contained in the two albums. These guys, this band; they saved me.

It was their music that I used as hand holds to climb my way, all by myself, out of that dark pit. It was with their songs as my holy armor of sorts that I kicked my addiction, that I stopped hurting myself and pulled myself back up to a standing position. These guys were like me at one point, too. And they weren't hiding it or ashamed of it - they owned it and beat its ass.

It sounds cliche and maybe a bit over blown, but it is no less true. Music, specifically theirs, helped pull me back from the brink of the darkest period of my life. If you had told me that when I first saw them with my very jaded former friend, I'd have laughed at you and told you these guys were never going to make it anywhere. I'd have said they were too much of an under dog for the old under dog winning the day trick to work.

And I'd have been dead wrong. Because they were fearless and brave with their music, they weren't afraid to be themselves and make their music their way. And every single one of their albums was different and wonderfully emotionally charged. I saw them play a few times between "Three Cheers" and "The Black Parade" and I bawled every.single.time. Like a teen fangirl. But that's just the sort of energy they projected; an overwhelming bled of rage and peace. Darkness and Light. Love and Hate. They were exhilarating and terrifying. For an emphatic mess like myself it was almost too much to handle.

When "The Black Parade" came out, I was in a much better place. And yet it still grabbed me by the heart strings and put me through the emotional gammut. The running thread of the concept album, a patient diagnosed with and dying of cancer and then telling tales of his afterlife, struck home with me as my mother has battled cancer in several forms throughout my life. When my best friend was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2011, I clung to this album like a rock and roll bible. For a little while there, he did as well. Once again, My Chemical Romance was my rock in a hard place.

Their (now) final album, "Danger Days: The Life and Times of The Fabulous Killjoys" has been in heavy rotation for me since the beginning of this year. Like, heavy, heavy rotation. I haven't taken it out of my car stereo in at least two months. When I'm having a hard day or just want to make some noise I crank it up and just drive. It's fantastic driving music and it makes me want to put on my dance pants. In fact, it's all I listened to the week leading up to my 30th birthday. And I was telling the hubs about a week ago that I hope they tour again or put out a new album soon, because it's high time I see them again and they're so damn talented.

As it turns out, that won't be happening. They called it quits a few days ago, not in a fit of rage or drama, but in a very soft, eloquent and mature way. The mark of a group of guys that have grown up a lot in the last 12 years, just like myself and a large majority of their fan base. This is the first time in my admittedly short life, that I've had a band that's been vastly important to me, that I grew up with (literally) come to an end and I'm not going to lie, I'm heartbroken. For a lot of people, this concept will seem odd. After all, it's not like I know the band personally. We met once, a long long time ago, but that hardly counts. But for people who have been effected by something in such a large, life changing way, my sadness will make absolute sense.

Yet, while the band may be done, while they may never make music together again the profound effect they've had on my own and so many lives will live on. As will their music and the fearlessness, emotions, triumphs and ideas behind it. Music isn't tangible, but rather a cacophony of sound, concept and feeling that has the power to connect us, break us or save us if we open ourselves up to it.

And for what this music has done for me, I will be forever grateful. The Black Parade will carry on.

All music and video by and property of My Chemical Romance and their respective directors, producers, labels, etc.

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