Written by Chris Panico
The guitar is dying.
It’s been happening for awhile now and a quick glance at the Billboard charts from the last few years only confirms it. Guitar-centric songs are few and far between among the best-sellers, finding little room between the Katy Perry’s and Justin Bieber’s of today.
Luckily for guitar fans, Gerard Way is on a mission to bring it back.
Way returns from the recent disbanding of My Chemical Romance with his debut solo album Hesitant Alien. The release is fully stocked with guitar fuzz, in-your-face drums, and the desperate sounding vocals that made Gerard Way famous. From beginning to end Alien is charged with an energy that seems to be a result of Way’s newer freedom as a solo artist. Without the expectations of an established, major-label band, the singer has been enabled to experiment and takes risks previously closed to him.
Among the many interesting decisions on the album, the way the vocals get buried on certain tunes seems to be one of the best. It may seem like a bad move for someone known mainly as a vocalist, but Way’s intentions lie elsewhere. Allowing the guitars (as well as the rest of the band) take over a little bit helps to display his other skills as well as making his interest in the guitar abundantly clear. The listener also gets the added bonus of experiencing the sound of hearing the music the way it would sound live.
It’s no secret that Gerard Way has a knack for catchy melodies. However, Hesitant Alien gives the audience a glimpse of a newer dimension of Way. Songs like “Action Cat” and “Millions” present a more pop-oriented approach, with melodies that have a bit of a happier lilt to them, drawing from the wells of Brit-pop and punk rock.
One of Alien’s strengths is how well it’s paced. While fuzzy guitars is definitely the M.O. of the release, songs like “Brother” and “Drugstore Perfume” help break the vibe up and keep the listener interested. Some fans may be turned off by the lower fidelity sound throughout the record, but the intention of it is clear and hard to feel put off by.
As a huge fan of My Chemical Romance I was nervous about Gerard Way going solo, but I’m happy to say my fears were for naught. Hesitant Alien is definitely among one of the better albums released this year and it seems to have a conviction to it that has become rare. Whether you were a fan of the old band or not, it’s definitely worth checking out, and maybe even buying.