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The Themes and Lyricism of "Bullets" by My Chemical Romance

When I mention the name, My Chemical Romance, what is the first thing you think of? Maybe you think of classic songs by the band such as “Welcome To The Black Parade” or “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)”. Imagery of vampires, skeletons, and two lovers drenched in blood may come to mind. Or you may think of the influence they had on the emo subculture of the early to mid-2000s. All of these things are small facets that represent the band, but their debut album “I Brought You My Bullets You Brought Me Your Love” (commonly referred to as just “Bullets”), an album born out of destruction and defiance, provides the foundations for this iconic band and the legacy they would later go on to create for themselves.

The members of My Chemical Romance, 2002-2003. From left to right: Frank Iero, Ray Toro, Matt Pelissier, Mikey Way, and Gerard Way

“Bullets” was released under Eyeball Records on July 23, 2002. The album features Gerard Way on vocals, Ray Toro on lead guitar, Frank Iero on rhythm guitar, Mikey Way on bass, and Matt Pelissier on drums. It is the heaviest sounding album of the band’s discography, taking inspiration from classic hardcore punk bands such as “Black Flag” and “The Misfits”.

To understand the themes of “Bullets”, we must think back to one of the most tragic days in American history: September 11, 2001. At the time, Gerard Way was a comic artist working as an intern for Cartoon Network. While on his way to work, he witnessed the attack on one of the Twin Towers. Way recalls the experience like “being in a science fiction film or some kind of disaster film. It was exactly that kind of feeling. You didn’t believe it…It made no sense”. The experience changed Way and his outlook on life; he no longer wanted to draw for the rest of his life, but he wanted to make a difference in the world, thus forming the band My Chemical Romance. The song “Skylines and Turnstiles” recounts the aftermath of the events of 9/11 with the idea of not knowing where the angels are in a time of destruction and wondering if innocence can still be reclaimed even after witnessing something immensely traumatic. Destruction in this album is not limited to what happens externally but what also happens internally. Gerard Way once told Kerrang! Magazine that the song “Vampires Will Never Hurt You” was written about “the earlier signs of my alcoholism and how I felt I was wasting my life”. Throughout the song, he screams with anguish, asking listeners if someone can “save his soul” while contradicting it with the request if they can “stake his heart”. Two contrasting actions, which set up listeners with the paradoxical situation: “if I don’t want to die, is there more to life than the dysfunctional state I find myself in”?

The album cover for “I Brought You My Bullets You Brought Me Your Love”

The album was met with moderate success, with the band playing basement shows and playing for a few festivals such as Hellfest in 2003. In the following years, My Chemical Romance released two of their biggest albums “Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge” in 2004 and “The Black Parade” in 2006. 2010 saw the release of “Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys”. Three years later, on March 23, 2013, the band unexpectedly broke up, leaving fans wondering if there was anything left for the future of My Chemical Romance.

On December 20, 2019, the band reunited in Los Angeles to play a reunion show and announce their world tour, playing in locations across Europe, North America, Oceania, and Asia. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, these dates got pushed back by two years, so the tour didn’t officially start until May 2022. Before the tour started, unexpectedly, the band released their first new single in over six years, “The Foundations Of Decay”. Once again, listeners are immersed in a world filled with chaos and self-destruction, but this time with a call to action: You must fix your heart alongside your decaying past.

More than 21 years after the release of “Bullets”, My Chemical Romance has once again reemerged with triumph. “Bullets” laid the foundations for the band to reach great heights, those foundations got built on, then eventually began to rot, but out of that decay, My Chemical Romance is back to prove that they are still willing to fight and carry on.

The members of My Chemical Romance in May 2022, around the release of “The Foundations Of Decay”. From left to right: Mikey Way, Frank Iero, Gerard Way, and Ray Toro

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