My Chemical Romance — “I’m Not OK (I Promise)”

Released: 1.17.05

Peak: #86

“Emo Goth” is a snazzy tag, especially if you want to scare grown-ups (and who doesn’t?). But hell no Gerard Way ain’t either. He’s too funny about his insecurities, for starters, as the knowing cluelessness of “Well, if you wanted honesty that’s all you had to say” establishes at the very beginning of “I’m Not OK.” And My Chemical Romance know how to rock and roll. Goths “rock” maybe–back and forth, in one place, like sulky thumbsuckers–but as a rule they lack the real frenzy to get out of themselves, practically the only remnant of its black roots that white rock retains at this late date.

Addressed to some damaged gal who jumps out windows and regrets letting her boyfriend snap nude pics and demands absolute attention from her non-sexual male friends, “I’m Not OK” both harnesses and satirizes that frenzy. Rather than telling the headcase off as a crazy bitch, Gerard just shrugs, “You wear me out.” He’s not OK either, after all, and so he’s written the flipside of the breakup song where the guy insists he’s all right even though he’s heartbroken. The gothier “Helena” may have been bigger hit — nifty video for that one — but I bet an MCR show sees more uncontrollably pistoning teen heads during this number.

Olds desperate for to place the present within their own limited context talked about MCR as “this generation’s Nirvana,” but Gerard has no interest in Kurt’s communitarian wail, and My Chemical Romance have no qualms about arena shtick: “I’m Not OK” contains the harmonized guitar solo from Boston, the Bob Seger-style clap-along, a melodic bit swiped from Wham!’s “Last Christmas,” and (corniest of all) the Billy Corgan whisper to a scream. If anything, My Chemical Romance are this generation’s Green Day, offering defiance as an alternative to despair. And given the trajectory of last gen’s, not a moment too soon.

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