Reinvention, or breaking off from the past is a tricky thing for many artists to do. Especially ones like Gerard Way who used to be the lead singer of what was then one of the biggest bands in the world, and a band that had so many labels thrown at them such as ‘emos’ and ‘punks’. The bigger the reputation the harder it is to put out a solo record. Way has essentially ditched his MCR fan base on this record to find fans more in tone to his age at 37 years old. As he said in an interview ‘Grown-ups would look at what we were doing and say, “This is high school music”’.
In that way, Hesitant Alien is a success for the most part. Musically and thematically Way finds himself making an album completely different than any of the glam – punk he found himself in in the noughties. He wears all of his influences on his sleeves on this, paying homage to artists such as Bowie (The very cover alone resembles him) and the music of the late 80s and early 90s as well as a host of other little influences. Sometimes this album plays like a compilation album with each track showing another one of Way’s favourite artists. Within all of these influences there is Way’s distinct style in the center tying them all together. In nearly every song he sports the fuzzed up vocal effects reminiscent of garage rock, as he sings through it sometimes violently, sometimes sweetly but always with a killer melody. In an interview Way recently said “I was able to bring out my Britpop influences tremendously.” and he certainly has as the melodies are very reminiscent of bands like Supergrass.
The production on this album is so much more crisp and bubbly than anything from MCR’s discography. This may not sit well with old fans of his as it doesn’t allow for anything to sound as grandiose as his old band, but it may attract much more new fans. The song ‘Action Cat’ has a heavier sound in the instrumentation but it allows Way to sing in his upper register in what turns out to be one of the more pretty songs on the album. Other songs take a more straight up stab at a heavy sound with songs like ‘Juarez’ and ‘Zero Zero’ which end up sounding much like garage rock songs but with a punk twist on them.
The real treats on this album comes when you realise how cleverly Way has put together the instrumentation, in that it shows off his influences. Even when there isn‘t much variation in what instruments he‘s actually using. He uses jangly guitars, fuzzy guitars and acoustic guitars all at once in the song ‘Drugstore Perfume’, a song that finds him throwing all of his influences into one basket and somehow having brilliant results, it’s a standout ballad on the album. Other songs sees the instrumentation expand as he uses saxophones and other instruments in the backdrop that sounds surprisingly brilliant behind the walls of guitar.
Gerard Way has made an album that although isn’t anything original and wears all of it’s influences on it’s sleeves, it is distinctively him. It does have some imperfections. The lyrics aren‘t the most compelling pieces in the world, but they are definitely decent and never noticeably bad by a long way. This album will serve as the record where Way broke off from the ‘Emo’ tag that has defined his whole career, and has instead, started a new chapter.