Albumalia: Hesitant Alien — Gerard Way
Hearing You Loud
The title of this album — according to the 40 year-old teenager himself — revolves around the (reluctant) acceptance of his outsider status within the music world. That’s a pretty well-placed theme, if you ask me, especially coming from Mr. Way. Behind the color-graded music videos and stage makeup, Gerard doesn’t particularly live up to his merchandise; he comes across as sweet, and thoughtful, and charmingly attentive. He’s closer to being a nerd than he is to fitting in with the rest of the gruff, uninterested rock stars. Surely this can’t be the voice of emotional teen angst?
And what about the music? Where, exactly, are we going to put it? It’s too polished and orchestrated to be punk, it’s too dynamic to be “emo” (despite what you might’ve heard), and it sounds too aggressively unique to be shuffled into the overcrowded “alternative” barn.
But in the end, that’s kind of okay. We need the flavors of obtuse and ill-defined that can reach the masses. It would be nice to have an industry full of hesitant aliens — large scale artists with voices that can’t really be neatly boxed by genre or processed by branding till they sound like everyone else.
The reason why Gerard Way doesn’t fit the “voice of teen angst” label is because he was never the voice of teen angst. Those who reached that conclusion only listened to half the record, as it were; and if further proof is needed, Hesitant Alien is the place to start.
First off, it’s not another My Chemical Romance album, with the best part being: it’s not trying to be. So what is it? Well, yes — that’s the idea. What is it? The term “Brit-pop” gets thrown around this album a lot, which, while not unhelpful, doesn’t do a very good job of getting you in the right headspace. Others call it a “guitar album” — is that even a thing? Others still just throw in the towel and slap the “singer/songwriter alternative rock” sticker on it.
Oh no, whatever shall you do? It seems like you’re just gonna have to listen to it and decide for yourself.
But don’t misunderstand, this album is a joy. There are so many moments where you think the groove has been fully explored, when out of nowhere comes such a biting moment of dissonance, or a bridge, or a slight shift in production style, or a certain strikingly powerful line (there are a lot of those lines). It’s not a difficult album to listen to, by any means. If you want to plug-in and rock out, it’s got you covered. If you want to sit down and really feel some dimensions of thought, this album’s got you covered.
Wishing Wells and magic spells
And everything between
Can you tell me what it’s like
Speaking of which, there’s a lot less “I, me” language and a lot more “us, we” language in this album when compared to Gerard’s other endeavors. It’s somewhat uplifting, considering the forgotten conceptual Black Parade follow-up that was replaced by Danger Days (and bridged by the lyrically-tired Conventional Weapons). There’s a beckoning aspect to Hesitant Alien — a positive heartbeat that pumps the blood of a rally anthem, asking the listener to “look alive tonight” and “get it together — somehow”.
Songs like ‘Brother’ and ‘Drugstore Perfume’ explore complex and acutely familiar emotional landscapes that can’t be summed up with a single term like “disillusionment” or “nostalgia”, let alone “angst”. The messages here are mature and wholly poetic, and worthy of being revisited over and over.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, this album (like many of Gerard’s other projects) has the most appropriate, bumping, all-out finale that you could ever hope for. And in that spirit, let me remind those of you who’ve made it this far:
We’re not just dreamers,
We’re the kind that comprehend.
If giving-in is pointless, then –
Get out of bed,
Or this might be the end.