Since My Chemical Romance’s bittersweet farewell in 2013, their guitarist Frank Iero’s solo projects have diced with that same grandiose melodrama, but never fully indulged in its eerie depths again. 2014’s ‘Stomachaches’, released under the moniker frnkiero and the cellabration, did champion unhinged screams and unbridled, galloping guitar lines (alongside that video for the lead single ‘Joyriding’, which was a literal bloodbath!). However, it was nowhere near the heady, eyeliner-donned heights of My Chem’s prime. Both records which followed, 2016’s ‘Parachutes’ from Frank Iero and the Patience, and 2019’s ‘Barriers’ released under their current iteration of Frank Iero and the Future Violents, were softer again. While both leant towards greatness with emotionally charged singles – most notably ‘Oceans’ from the former and ‘Young and Doomed’ on the latter – Frank was evidently indulging in new soundscapes, finding where his idiosyncratic, strained vocals felt most at home.
With his dark teenage heart satisfied by his early career, Frank was free to explore the complete opposite end of the musical spectrum on his latest EP, ‘Heaven Is A Place, This Is A Place’. Taking on one of the most iconic alternative rock songs of the past few decades is no mean feat, let alone coating that track in a shimmering veil of softness – yet that is exactly what Frank has done with his cover of REM’s ‘Losing My Religion.’ Including a cover on a four-track EP might seem like something of a cop-out. However, Frank’s recollections of how the track came together make it seem like pre-destined fate.
Following the horrific bus crash in Australia in 2016, which Frank and his bandmate and brother-in-law, Evan Nestor, were lucky to walk away from alive, the REM classic became an eerily re-occurring feature in their recovery. It became something of a mantra, sound-tracking their return to health and, just as importantly, to happiness.
“But during that first tour together we got to talking about how she played the mandolin and how we shared a love for R.E.M., and more specifically ‘Losing my Religion’. So, on the last night of tour in San Francisco we found an empty room/hallway/stairwell type place and made an iPhone voice memo demo of the song. It felt like magic and that was the moment I was convinced this couldn’t be the only thing we did together.”
That being said, for those who still dearly miss the days of frothing lyricism that would scare your parents out of their wits, and scything guitars that drip with emotion: never fear! Whether it was stepping back into the world of My Chemical Romance that has done it, or whether it was the realisation that he still has a heart as black as any of us, we may never know. Either way, there is much to be thankful for in the EP’s opening two tracks, which are a deadly coupling indeed! Opener ‘Violence’ is as cut-throat as one could wish for, brimming with a ferocity that threatens to spill over into unbridled insanity. Similarly, second single ‘Sewerwolf’ is nail-bitingly anarchic, with lyrics that sound as though they are being ripped with force from Frank’s throat. Never fear, lovers of darkness- there’s plenty of savage grit left in Mr Iero yet!
Being so open to embracing these new sounds, both old and new, is truly a testament to the kind of musician Iero is. He is able to craft the tracks that capture and inspire him, without being afraid or embarrassed to crank up the passion when he needs to. That is the hallmark of a refined artist, and one whose career – both with the newly reformed My Chemical Romance, and outside of them – is definitely heading skywards.
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