Gerard Way’s solo career is not My Chemical Romance 2.0, and that’s clear from the first few seconds of The Bureau, the opening track of début album Hesitant Alien.
Infused with rock and roll style guitars and lyrics to incite rebellion against ‘The Man’, it’s everything you’d expect from a killer opening track. Next comes ‘Action Cat’, which isn’t really about cats. It has all the makings of a great single, catchy riffs and a bass line I found myself nodding along to, alone, on a train. Way’s creative vision clearly takes precedence over tradition; the vocals are understated, giving way to a focus on melody. Perhaps the most well known track on the album, ‘No Shows’ is next. The faded, brit-pop music video is a perfect way to describe the song, where his vocals have a nostalgic, tinny feel. Next, Way slows it down for power-balladesque ‘Brother’, complete with piano melodies and strong vocals, highlighting the personal nature of the lyrics. In true ballad fashion, the full band instrumental kicks in for the chorus, rounding off a catchy tune.
‘Millions’ more fully explores Way’s vocal range, harmonising with himself and hitting the high notes. It’s an impressive little addition to the record, but I’m not sure how it’ll sound live. ‘Zero Zero’ has a punky feel to it, with clunky chord progressions and shouty vocals. Much like ‘The Bureau’, this track makes you want to burn your bra and spread anarchy. I’m sure that’s exactly what Mr Way was going for. The strangely named ‘Juarez’ hits you with sultry vocals and a catchy chorus, but it’s not otherwise exceptional. His vocals become progressively more angsty as the song progresses, and are drowned in wah-wah guitar sometimes. I’m not sure if it’s intentional but it cuts into the flow of the song.
‘Drugstore Perfume’ starts slow, a jarring contrast from the chaotic ending of ‘Juarez’. It stays pretty slow throughout, showing off the artistic range of Way’s song-writing skills. The track has a slightly late-era My Chemical Romance feel, reminiscent of the Danger Days album, but the comparison isn’t a criticism. ‘Get the Gang Together’ is introduced through experimental guitar jamming and has an organic sound. Way’s vocals kick in with the sultry tone from ‘Juarez’, and the track experiments with levels of volume, choosing to highlight vocals in some areas and instrumentals in others. ‘How It’s Going to Be’ picks up the tail end of the album, with a faster beat and a return to the dual-harmony vocals explored earlier in the album. There’s some experimental synth use in this track too, which is a nice deviation from the basic song structure Way is familiar with.
The final track, ‘Maya the Psychic’ isn’t particularly overwhelming, bringing into question its placement at the end of the album. The chorus is catchy enough, but the chord progressions are predictable and it isn’t a great way to end a great album.
Overall, I’m not sure what he was trying to do, or if there was a theme we were supposed to focus on, but that doesn’t really matter. Hesitant Alien is a solid debut from a veteran musician, and one thing is clear. It’s time to turn our backs on the Black Parade and admit we actually are okay, it’s not 2006 any more. The musical genius of Gerard Way lives on.
By Olivia Wilkins