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."
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