Real-Time Review: Hesitant Alien by Gerard Way
The Bureau: Forget that My Chemical Romance ever existed and welcome back everyone’s secret crush, Gerard Way, with his debut solo album Hesitant Alien. The first track comes in the form of an oddly-mixed garagey track that pushes his voice to the back end of the mix- considering this is his big solo effort, I kind of came here wanting a heavy dose of that Gerard Way glamour. The song itself isn’t too bad- a bit slow for an album opener, but nice and burnt around the edges.
Action Cat Ah, okay, this is more my speed. I’m a huge sucker for pop-punk, and this seems to fall into an inoffensive offcut of the above. It’s got plenty of heart and makes a bit more of his voice, and that chorus- halfway between a call to arms and a eulogy- has got sticking power. Yeah, this’ll do.
No Shows: Ooh, “Explicit”! I like it already. I’m trying really hard to put MCR’s ouevre out of my head while listening to this, as it’s the first time I’ve heard Hesitant Alien all the way through, but this sounds suspiciously like Pulp covering Danger Days. It’s definitely straddling a line between glam rock and britpop in a way that I didn’t necessarily think would actually work quite as well as it does. I’m still waiting to be blown away by this album, but this track-with a bombastic closing thirty seconds, crackly, scratchy guitars, and a modulated vocal line that keeps it modern. That weird squeaking sound at the end almost made me rip my headphones out, though.
Brother: This is another one with an instantly Britpoppy feel to it, with a touch of Oh! You Pretty Things thrown into the mix. Here’s the song I was waiting for- it’s built unapologetically around a crisp, driving vocal line, and has a foreplay of a first minute that dives into one of those self-aware ballads Way does so well. There’s a strong rise and fall to Brother, and it feels like Hesitant Alien has finally and definitively hit it’s stride.
Millions: You can’t feel my foot tapping, but it is. Way is channelling Cocker at his most angsty, with a big, meaty chorus to really sink his (probably fanged) teeth into. Bizarrely, this feels like Bullets-era MCR with a bit more sheen on it, and it has no right to work anywhere near as well as it does. I’m angry at this song, because I’m enjoying it way more than I should be.
Zero Zero: Big, crunchy bass and drums move this out of britpop and firmly into garagey-grunge territory. I’ve got to say, broadly, that the heavier stuff is leaving me pretty cold- it’s not bad, nowhere near it, but it’s not as engaging or fresh as the poppier stuff. The attitude feels a little bit forced here, but the overall effect is pretty inoffensive.
Juarez: We’re well past the halfway point when Juarez arrives, all kissing with teeth and daggers in high heels. It’s a song that injects energy into an album that has been sorely lacking it, a fast, punchy number that instantly lodges itself in your head as genuinely original. Here, he’s actually managed to marry the clash of genres with modest success, and the song is short enough not to outstay it’s welcome. A chorus that I want to hear live mixed with enough bass to have your eye out mark this as one of the best tracks so far.
Drugstore Perfume: Okay, if we weren’t in britpop territory before, we are now. With those careful layers of guitars and synth coming up against echoey vocals in the closest thing Way’s come to a love song, we’re in familiar territory in a really good way. This is polished, and feels like a centrepiece. That big, slow guitar fill that marks the start of the verse pulls the song together, and, at almost five minutes long, that’s quite a feat. This is quantifiably good stuff.
Get the Gang Together: Eh. I listened to this whole song before writing a word, because nothing really jumped out at me. It’s not bad, and there are little sparks of something special here-the last thirty seconds with those staccato vocal riffs are good- but at four minutes long it’s pretty lethargic and forgettable.
How It’s Going to Be: Much like Juarez, this track really does marry the two genres into one cohesive whole- a heavy underneath belies the playful, sharp vocal and synth line over the top. With a big, bombastic feel to it, How It’s Going To Be comes across as an album closer, rich with resolution, even though we’ve still got one to go.
Maya the Psychic: This must the name of a Fratellis song, right? Surely? No? Either way, Maya the Psychic is actually pretty fun, a crisp, tight, synthy send-off to the album. It’s strength lies in that chaos of layered vocals at the end- it feels like Way has brought together the mish-mash of songs behind him into one, last-gasp, pedal-to-the-metal getaway, and it works.
In a Sentence: It’s a messy first shot, but Way proves in a handful of songs that his solo career was definitely worth pursuing.
Out of Ten: Seven
Best Songs: Millions, Drugstore Perfume, How It’s Going to Be
Worst Songs: Get the Gang Together, Zero Zero
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