Clad in electric blue suits with his hair dyed bright red and orange during publicity for his debut solo album, Gerard Way is a far cry of his former self, the man he was just over a year ago: frontman of punk rock’s most innovative band this side of the turn of the century, My Chemical Romance.
Way has always been an outsider, which is a role he has accepted after 11 years at the helm of one of glam rock’s biggest contributing bands, saying, “I learned to accept my place in music as: I’m extremely different, but that’s how I’m needed and that’s why I belong.” Nothing more clearly shows how well he has embodied that description than his debut album, aptly titled ‘Hesitant Alien,’ released last Wednesday.
Very obviously lacking MCR’s dramatic darkness, ‘Hesitant Alien’ fuses Brit Pop with glam rock in a way we haven’t heard in decades, revealing Way’s true roots and reminding listeners that there was always a maniacal joy in his voice beneath his every performance with MCR, hidden inside the macabre rock operas for which they will remain famous for years to come.
Now free to do as he pleases creativity-wise, Way has embodied a less frenzied look. Post the ‘Black Parade’ gaunt, gothic era, Way and the rest of the band have taken up a more punk rock appearance with neon colored hair, ripped leather and frayed t-shirts, conveying a more Iggy Pop meets David Bowie image, which is where Way identifies most. By finally getting to do what he wants, Way has managed to identify with an audience that has stuck with him from the beginning, an audience that is getting older and subsequently growing out of the more angst-ridden teenager music MCR had taken to pouring forth, especially towards the end with ‘Danger Days.’
It is understandable, and inevitable, that a lot of his fans will be taken aback by this seemingly new Gerard Way, channeling The Smashing Pumpkins and Duran Duran while also remaining reminiscent of the more upbeat songs of ‘Danger Days’ in his new collection of melodic risks, for that is what ‘Hesitant Alien’ is at the end of the day. It is, after all, a late-stage career shift, and Way has got a lot to prove. The album starts off up-tempo, takes a nose-dive into ballads towards the middle and ends on a glam rock note, managing to make it a worthy first effort just barely from a man who now has a lot of coming-into-his-own to do. Maybe his next album will stop us in our tracks and force us to pay attention, instead of merely shocking us with new content.