My Chemical Romance's 2002 debut was a particularly strident entry in that shifty genre of bands tortuously slamming together elements of emo, hardcore, and even metal. Rightly signed to a larger label (in this case, Reprise Records), MCR has returned in 2004 with Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. With the aid of production major-leaguer Howard Benson, they've edited the slight rookie excesses of I Brought You My Bullets You Brought Me Your Love, resulting in a rewarding, pretty damn relentless product. Ghosts wander through this Sweet Revenge, and the blood-stained lovers of its cover are no joke. "Would I die for you? Well here's your answer in spades...Got you in my sights," Gerard Way wails in "Hang 'Em High." There's also cinematic concepting here -- "The story of a man. A woman. And the corpses of a thousand evil men..." the liners intone. "You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us in Prison" begins "In the middle of a gunfight/In the center of a restaurant." Musically the cut's claustrophobic, messy, and juiced with adrenaline, just like the Tokyo crime caper shootout it was probably inspired by. Picture antiheroes leaping sideways with twin pistols blaring -- in slow motion, you know -- and you're close. Put an old At the Drive-In record on in the background, and suddenly you're shot in the arm and down to your last clip. Economic, treble-kicking production, consistently hyper, "Let's get to the next note NOW!" instrumentation, and great thematic songwriting -- Three Cheers teems with the influences MCR shares with its peers, but recent efforts from fellow travelers Thursday and A.F.I. don't have this furious immediacy, this coarseness that's so appealing. My Chemical Romance seems to have built-in restrictive bindings that prevent it from flying off the handle into quiet-loud screamo stereotyping or odd-bird stopovers into choral parts or maudlin piano. Something like "Ghost of You" might slow the pace, but it doesn't touch the railing guitars or inventively explosive drumming. Album highlights include the propulsive chain shots "Give 'Em Hell Kid" and "To the End," where layers of vocals increase urgency over modernist post-punk, or the raucous "Thank You for the Venom." There's no question of Reprise's high hopes for My Chemical Romance and Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. But its accessibility pays tribute to anger and bullet holes in black leather.
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AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus