My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way was 24 years old when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, in New York City, on 11 September 2001. The incident understandably had a profound effect on the then aspiring comic-book artist. He had been working as an intern at Cartoon Network in the city that devastating day but, in its aftermath, the New Jersey native began to question what he was doing with his life. As he described it to Spin magazine in 2005, “I literally said to myself, ‘Fuck art. I’ve gotta get out of the basement. I’ve gotta see the world. I’ve gotta make a difference.’” And so My Chemical Romance was born, soon to be followed by their dark, gritty debut album, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love.
Listen to ‘I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love’ here.
An album as frenetic as the band’s own existence
As a means of processing what happened on 9/11, Way penned the lyrics to what would become Skylines and Turnstiles, the first ever song MCR would write together. The singer dropped any dreams he had of joining the ranks of the world’s best guitarists – he’d played the instrument since he was eight, but wasn’t very good at it – to focus on lyric-writing and singing. Within eight months of that fateful day, the former illustrator had teamed up with drummer Matt Pelissier, guitarist Ray Toro and his bass-playing younger brother, Mikey Way, and hammered out enough songs for what would become the group’s debut album.
A demo recorded in Pelissier’s attic was enough to impress Eyeball Records, through which My Chemical Romance met guitarist/vocalist Frank Iero, whose then band, Pencey Prep, had just split up. Days after recruiting their second axe-slinger, and with their line-up cemented, the fledgling MCR entered Nada Recording Studio, in the town of New Windsor, in Orange County, to hammer out 11 tracks with producer Geoff Rickley, from the band Thursday. It took MCR less than two weeks to complete the sessions and, two months later, on 23 July 2002, they unleashed I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, an album every bit as frenetic and raw as the band’s own brief existence.
Dark music for lost souls
Opening the album, the gentle flamenco-style Romance (an acoustic piece of music of unknown origins thought to date back to the late 19th century) soon gives way to the goth-punk of Honey, This Mirror Isn’t Big Enough For The Two Of Us. Gerard Way maintains that MCR served as an outlet for his struggles with depression and various addictions to alcohol and prescription drugs, and the song’s opening lyric, “The amount of pills I’m taking counteracts the booze I’m drinking,” lays that philosophy bare and offers an insight to the poignant connection My Chemical Romance would later form with their legions of fans. This was dark music for lost souls, the subject matter of which hadn’t been explored since the grim days of grunge.