Looking like a cross between Michael Bublé and David Bowie, Gerard Way, appears highly strung on the cover of his debut solo album. Furthermore, with his ever present androgynous guise, Hesitant Alien is an apt name if based on first physical impressions.
Of course returning to the music scene, not only in the aftermath of another battle with drugs and alcohol, but following on from the crushing failure that was his last album – one delivered in the form of lead singer with multi-platinum titans My Chemical Romance – this was always going to be an apprehensive venture.
Largely staying within the realms he knows, Way gives us alternative rock, with bluesy undertones and vocals tinged with rawness. Gone are the high-school hierarchy material, the often incomprehensible background vocals and the furious guitar riffs.
“Juarez” is a clear standout, with all the urgency and fervour one might expect from Way, while “How It’s Going to Be” shows a lamenting side not dissimilar to MCR contemporaries AFI.
With his main objective being to “re-boot Britpop in America” these influences aren’t just restricted to the album’s artwork colour scheme, and Way glides effortlessly into this new foothold, his signature hacking vocals still intact. Hints of Blur come abound in tracks like “Drugstore Perfume”, and Oasis in the sleazy “Millions”.
“No Show” calls for a sing-along and “Get the Gang Together” adds deranged glamour. “Brother”, featuring none other than Mikey Way, is amply melodic.
Elements of pent-up aggression and moments of self-doubt, that are just Way by nature – no matter how long sober or happily married – do make themselves known: “Do you miss me?/Cause I miss you”. However, now, they seem more justifiable; Way’s emotional capacity in reality, rather than anything fuelled by the need to be relevant and accepted, by 15-year olds, to which he has previously alluded.
Undoubtedly Way’s reincarnation is not just a feeble attempt to self-satisfy or relive the adoration and utopia that he was previously accustomed to. An observational assessment of development sees a presence and style reminiscent of Tom Waits and Lou Reed, demonstrating that this is the start of a truly new and exciting path for Way.
For artists, the ability to evolve, improve and transcend neat little boxes into which you have been placed makes for the essence of an exciting journey with your fans while obtaining respect from your peers.
In its absence of contributing anything new to the alternative echelons of music, and where previous front-men who have assumed similar group success have often failed in their attempts to go solo (Brandon Flowers, Pete Doherty), Way’s conversion must be applauded. Coming from a man on the verge of 40, it is relatable, catchy and a welcome effort from Way to fans, who like him, have also grown up.
With this offering, Way hasn’t been hesitant in his march away from all that was MCR, and he won’t be alienated for it.
Hesitant Alien is released on Warner Bros. Records on September 29th.
Image credit: warnermusic.de