Borderline psychotic & a ‘contemporary’ Groban

- Philip Cu-Unjieng () - December 3, 2006 - 12:00am
Two new releases of Warner Music come from different ends of the musical spectrum. However divergent their respective provenance may be, they’re united by the vision and polish both recordings exhibit. From the genre which spawned such groups as Green Day, and making a significant salute to the classic glam rock of Queen, we have the new CD of My Chemical Romance, The Black Parade. And from the other side of the spectrum, the popular Josh Groban has his new, melodious and light-classical CD, Awake.
My Chemical Romance – The Black Parade (Warner Music/Reprise)
From the Tim Burton-esque video of Welcome to the Black Parade, to the cyclical concept of the songs (Life and Death in reverse cycle) on the CD, My Chemical Romance stakes it claim for being the one of the most ambitious, outrageous bands on the rock horizon. At first viewing of the musical video, even my seven-year-old son was hooked, and when I played the CD for him the other day, he had already memorized the lyrics of Welcome to the Black Parade, and was singing along. That’s how catchy, visually arresting and unique the song is to music fans all over the world. With my years of having followed the music scene, the carrier single reminds me of the first time I heard Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody – it’s that good. Of course, it’s Queen squeeze-dried through the decades, and sprinkled with Nirvana and Green Day. In fact, when you hear the whole CD, there are tracks that bring bands like Kiss and Alice Cooper to mind.

Romance’s frontman Gerard Way has described the CD as borderline psychotic and over the top; and I totally agree. But there’s an energy and dynamism that can’t be denied. How else can you describe the oddball cameo by Liza Minelli on the disturbing Mama cut? Some tracks are more successful than the others, and the CD lacks the consistency to be truly seen as a "suite of songs" or as a true concept album, but I will grant that given how grandiose the band’s aims obviously were, there’s enough great music here to keep your basic Rockheads happy, while others of a more campus alternative bent will still revel in the concepts of alienation and Death omnipresent in these songs.
Josh Groban – Awake (Warner Music/Reprise)
For some inexplicable reason, Josh Groban and Michael Bublé are more popular here in this country than almost anywhere else in the world. Undoubtedly, Josh has his following in the US, but the kind of devotion he elicits over there pales in comparison to how his fans here anticipate his every Asian concert or new CD. Awake is the new CD, and while it offers much of the same, one also discerns the efforts of Groban to "contemporize" his music via the musical arrangements and instrumentation. Herbie Hancock and his electronic keyboards show up on one cut – Machine – and I personally can’t help but wonder if his steadfast fans will actually like this excursion into far left field. The carrier single You Are Loved (Don’t Give Up) is familiar territory, and already, I know of several women friends who claim to have swooned upon hearing the song.

The other musical cameo comes in the form of that South African vocal marvel, Ladysmith Black Mambazo (on the songs Lullaby and Weeping), and if only for helping revive attention for the vocal group who first gained recognition in the West when collaborating with Paul Simon back in the early ’90s, I welcome their inclusion in the CD. The CD follows the pattern of an Italian song, then a song in English, and back to Italian, until the last few tracks, and its very smart sequencing as it keeps the old fans happy, while allowing Josh to do a little of "spreading his wings... musically." This is a welcome addition to your Groban collection, and should garner him a new legion of fans.

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