Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Welcome To the Black Parade

VIDEO: "Welcome To the Black Parade" My Chemical Romance

What's lost amidst all the mockery that "goth" recieves in modern culture is the truly inspiring core of the movement. Contrary to some interpretations, this isn’t a group of devil-worshipping sad moppy freaks. With “Welcome to the Black Parade,” My Chemical Romance may have finally written the rousing battle cry that not only illuminates the motivating ideas behind the larger movement, but one that could unite the disparate roots of this group into one triumphant "parade" of defiance. Because that is, essentially, what all the make-up, anarchist paraphernalia and battered clothing are all about; the forgotten, the discriminated, the condemned souls of society are all invited to join this black procession against the norm.

The video is successful on it’s own terms in transcribing the ethos of the song, but like all good music videos, it seems to co-exist with the song at every step. Drawing cues from and referencing everything from Persona to 1920’s German Expressionism, the video is scaled and filmed to the epic proportions of MCR’s ambitious production, and perhaps succeeds where the song musically falls short. The marvelous faux-Oz set piece (particularly reminiscent of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) is the highlight though, with its snow-globe environment cascading around a dilapidating society. It’s precisely that blackened castle in the background, the soaring reminder of what could be, that forms the central theme of the work – and it’s most beautiful image.

The insane hospital that our protagonist begins in is perhaps a representation of the confining hold of “normality” or socially accepted morals. Notice the way in which the bored nurse registers no emotion towards the struggling patient, and more obviously, the stark whiteness of that environment crumbles under the weight of the “black parade” in this man’s dreams. As the singer triumphantly declares “this world will never take” his heart.

The TV screen on which the man sees his song played out is a reference to the band, who have huge ideas about the power of music to inspire. And yet the TV screen cannot help but also reference the very music video that we are watching (as well as the aforementioned Persona) – it’s the type of self-reference that could be tacky accompanied by a lesser song – but MCR are not attempting to hide the epic notions of their craft.

There are other clues to the scope of this vision. The sign that reads, “Starved to death in a world of plenty” is clear, and in the song itself we can hear it echoed in “though you’re broken and defeated, you’re weary widow marches on.” This image of the weary widow is a powerful symbol of hope, ironically dressed in typical images of “fear.” What the filmmakers and band are pushing here is a revisionist ideology; it’s about reaching out and including all those that feel forgotten. Thus when the patient finally goes “insane” he is in fact roaming about the fields of blackness that represent the idyllic future, a world that now only exists in his mind.

And yet perhaps the final shot of the lonely wanderer gives clues to the limits of this concept. We hear from the singer “I’m not a hero/just a boy, who’s meant to sing this song.” But perhaps there is some need for a heroic figure, or at least someone to outline exactly where this procession is headed. The castle in the distance raises spirits, but in utter defiance of conformity has a feasible alternative been found? On some level it may seem that this is simply a surface revolution; change your clothes, wear some dark eyeliner. But if nothing more these surfaces represent a deeper need for revolution and for change, and for that reason alone – MCR and the rest should keep marching.

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Depth of Focus Videographies: Radiohead / Bjork / Michael Jackson / Bowie