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 augmenting 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 while reaching for bigger and better and ostensibly more profound things, these baby bands 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 weighted down by so many ridiculous trappings glammy piano, overblown power ballads, slick midtempo rockers it sounds bloated rather than triumphant, generic where it should be groundbreaking. 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 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. Annie Zaleski