Ever get the feeling that modern rock is now all about one-upmanship? The Killers are reaching for Springsteen's lofty heights. Panic! at the Disco is cramming its stage show with a veritable burlesque troupe. And emo heroes such as Taking Back Sunday are slapping on enough production gloss to kill Stock, Aitken, and Waterman. But in the process of reaching for bigger and better -- and ostensibly more profound -- things, these baby bands inevitably disappoint.
Take My Chemical Romance, whose first two albums were gloriously unhinged dark-punk masterpieces beholden to the Misfits, Sabbath, and AFI. Tragically, the New Jersey quintet's latest, The Black Parade, is weighed down by so many ridiculous trappings -- glammy piano, overblown power ballads, slick midtempo rockers -- that it sounds bloated rather than triumphant, generic where it should be groundbreaking. Even worse, the group's grandiose artistic statements and pop hooks recycle tired musical ideas: Aerosmith's bluesy shambling ("House of Wolves"), Alkaline Trio's darkness ("This Is How I Disappear"), and, as has been widely discussed, Queen's bombast ("Welcome to the Black Parade"). Parade might have fared better not taking itself so seriously; just listen to "Teenagers," a hilarious, catchy, Georgia Satellites-style (no, really) ditty about adolescence. Lead singer Gerard Way clearly enjoys bellowing, "Teenagers scare the living shit out of me."