As this is my first album commentary, I thought I’d describe what exactly I mean by that. Essentially, I sit down on one of those rare occasions I have free time, listen to one of my favourite albums and basically write down everything I love about each track. My immediate, totally honest response to each song.
Frank Iero is one of my favourite musicians, he has been since I was 14 years old and was entirely obsessed with My Chemical Romance. Though that break-up was a pretty harrowing time in my life, one of the best things to come out of it has been Frank’s solo music. He is an entirely unique vocalist, a brutally honest lyricist and a sensational performer. His debut solo album, Stomachaches, is one that saw me through some pretty rough times and his latest release is equally as brilliant and just as, if not more, personal than the last.
Track 1 – World Destroyer
This track is such sick opener for an album. The dark intensity of the guitars not only leap out at you but they take you in their grip and drag you in. And then Frank sets off the drama with those signature, raw as fuck vocals. One of my favourite things about Frank Iero’s music is the vulnerability of his vocals and God, does this album do them justice. But what gets me most is the unpredictability of it. This track is both thrashy and tight as hell, volatile yet impeccably contained, ferocious in its delivery but at the same time so very delicate and you can never tell where you’re going to be taken next.
What is also immediately evident is that rather than being a departure from previous album Stomachaches, Parachutes sees Frank and The Patience turn inwards – digging deeper down into, rather than away from, the emotional material at the focus of his debut. When you pay attention to the lyrics, you can’t deny it’s pretty heartbreaking stuff, but for there’s something oddly comforting about hearing someone else go through such raw emotions right before you.
Track 2 – Veins! Veins!! Veins!!!
I hate to be the person that can never talk about an ex-My Chemical Romance member’s new material without talking about My Chemical Romance, but hear me out – my first thought when I heard this track was damn this reminds me of old school-MCR. There is definitely something reminiscent of both Bullets and Three Cheers in this one, from the high speed chord successions to the distorted fade-out at the end and I LOVE it. Plus, that growl that seeps into Frank’s voice is something I can never get enough of.
Track 3 – I’m A Mess
This one sees a slight transition from the heartbreaking to the angry. This song makes me want to be in a pit. Every time I hear it I want to be seeing it live. And maybe that’s because it’s so unpredictable, or because the conviction with which that unpredictability is presented gives it the feel of a live track. Maybe it’s because the defiance in every line makes me feel like I should be being crushed by several sweaty strangers. Maybe it’s just because it’s a damn good song.
The lyrics of this one are some of my favourite on the album. There’s just the right amount of angst among the confessional ‘maybe I’m a mess and I aint gonna change’, but the song doesn’t become weighed down with it.
Track 4 – They Wanted Darkness…
This track begins a lot of softer but it’s tinged with something rugged, almost like it starts off by skirting something, toying with angst but never quite letting us get a hold of it. There’s something quite sultry about it. But then it builds into a punky kind of sound before finally, Frank embraces that angst he’d been flirting with and the result is uncompromising catharsis. It’s a track that is entirely unapologetic in its display of human emotion.
Track 5 – I’ll Let You Down
I fucking love this one. I love the way it’s full of these melodic parts that Frank completely undercuts with his visceral vocals. He pulls you into a false sense of comfort. You can almost imagine yourself gathered around with your friends, drunk, at your local pub singing the chorus of “nothing seems to matter…” with your arms around each other. It’s quite a cheery image, right? But the image is never quite completed, he never quite finishes the illusion and it’s shattered before it has even really begun. This song encapsulates the volatility of the entire album. There is something misleadingly cheerful, almost comforting, about these more melodic moments that are completely ripped apart. There’s a discomfort. It’s jarring. It’s ugly. And it’s also really fucking beautiful. One thing is certain from this track; Frank Iero is the king of encapsulated chaos.
But what is really striking about this song, is how human it is. Being human can be pretty ugly. It can be uncomfortable, unpredictable, scary and deeply saddening. And all of these things are captured and encaged in these four minutes and twenty-six seconds. But being human is not only to be emotional, being human is to be vulnerable. And this vulnerability dominates the bridge, which is one of the saddest moments on the album.
Track 6 – Remedy
This is another of my favourites on the album. Frank’s ability to make you feel exactly what the song describes is incredible. He has your emotions on a string, pulling at each one with a simple crack in his voice or an unexpected soft moment amongst the chaotic catharsis. There is no doubt in this band’s integrity. Every moment of this track, of this entire album is unadulterated honesty.
Track 7 – Dear Percocet, I Don’t Think We Should See Each Other Anymore.
That scream though. This song wastes no time in throwing you right into the depth of what it has to offer; it’s angry and ferocious and it’s fucking filthy. You get a sense of total lack of control and restriction, and while I’m aware that actually a lot of thought and careful consideration went into the creation of this song, it delivers like a spontaneous emotional expression. There’s such an immediacy to it.The whole album feels like an emotional excavation, like he is mining his own emotions, digging deeper and deeper trying to find the ultimate, pure emotion.
Track 8 – Miss Me
I get a real feeling of wandering listening to this one – from the Western tones to the acoustic sound of the vocals. It also makes me really sad. I mean, fucking hell… This is the epitome of raw. That whisper and the somehow simultaneously soft and ragged edges to those final lines. It’s the kind of song that stabs you in the chest but keeps you coming back and begging it to do it again.
Track 9 – Oceans
I love this song for so many reasons. It’s another one that every time I listen to it I want to be seeing it performed live, because you just know it will be so damn fun. There can be so much comfort in yelling ‘I wish I was good enough/ I’ll never be good enough’ in time with hundreds of others right back at the band standing on a stage before you.
Track 10 – The Resurrectionist, Or An Existential Crisis In C#
It’s the marriage of flawlessly executed instrumental with unrestricted, almost primal vocals that gives this track a punky, 90’s kind of feel. This is also one of my favourite song titles.
Track 11 – Viva Indifference
At first, this is one of the most tamed tracks on the album, but then it unravels – the tightly threaded knots come apart and by the end it becomes one of the most uncontrolled on the album. These chaotic vocals have defined not only this album, but Frank’s solo project in general. His ability to abandon all inhibitions and tear down all walls in a way that remains contained is brilliantly unique. No one else can do what he does.It’s hard to open up in any situation let alone lay yourself out like this – the ugliest and the darkest parts all laid out for anyone to peer over, but the result is brilliantly, beautifully real.
Track 12 – 9-6-15
23 seconds in and there are tears.
I remember Frank Tweeting about the death of his grandfather. I remember watching old interviews where Frank talked about how much his grandfather meant to him. But you don’t need to know even the faintest thing about their relationship to know just how much Frank loved him. It’s all here, it’s in the barely-there vocals, in the way he breathes that his grandfather ‘made me feel I was more than enough’, in the haunting screams at the climax of the song.
This is not easy listening. It’s not supposed to be. Frank captures the hollowing ache of loss, the crushing desperate sadness and the consuming anger so completely. Nothing is left out. It is unflinching in its delivery and unrelenting in its impact. It is, simply, the purest form of emotional expression. Whatever it was that Frank was searching for throughout the album, he found it.