February 25, 2007


Chemical equation (JIM DeROGATIS, 2/25/07, Chicago Sun-Times)

To fully appreciate glam/goth pop-punk chart-toppers My Chemical Romance, it helps to understand where the band's leader grew up. Belleville, N.J., is a run-down blue-collar suburb sandwiched between Newark, which still hasn't recovered from the riots of 1968, and Jersey City, one of the ugliest and most corrupt burgs in America.

I know: I grew up there, too, not far from the Pulaski Skyway, which connects Jersey City and Newark. Tony Soprano drives over this elevated highway during the opening of every episode of HBO's mob series; it runs past tank farms and chemical factories and spans the PJP Landfill, which for decades had the distinction of being the only toxic site on the federal Superfund cleanup list that was actually on fire.

When you'd drive over the Pulaski Skyway at night -- as Gerard Way and his brother Mikey did when they were old enough to go to rock shows in Manhattan, a mere 10 miles but an entire universe away -- you could see the conflagrations smoldering underground. It looked like Dante's "Inferno" -- or a visual evocation of the music of My Chemical Romance. The quintet's 29-year-old vocalist wholeheartedly agrees.

"You know what's funny?" Gerard Way says, laughing. "Somebody that's from there will have a certain understanding of the band -- a very specific understanding that other people just won't have."

We used to visit the landfill on the campaign trail and it truly was like a portal to Hell.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 25, 2007 12:00 AM
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