Frank Iero (My Chemical Romance, Frnkiero and the Cellebration) Talks the Murder City Devils’ The White Ghost Has Blood on Its Hands Again

My Chemical Romance's former guitarist thought he had the Murder City Devils all figured out. Their new album proved him wrong.

In my younger and more vulnerable years, my “friends” and I would go to the Chiller Theater, an annual weekend-long horror convention that was usually held in Secaucus, New Jersey. Hunting for bootleg movies and toys filled our days, as did meeting B-movie stars and getting pictures taken with Jerry Only from the Misfits.

But our nights, oh our nights, were spent getting blotto at the hotel bar and fucking with the guy who, every year, came dressed up as an SS officer. We knew he was a closet Nazi, biding his time, shining his fake medals, counting the days, waiting all year to show his true colors. And every year when we caught a glimpse of those true hideous colors, we were ready and willing to pounce.

October 2000 was no different… or was it?

Their third album, In Name and Blood, had just come out, and the Murder City Devils were the band you couldn’t believe more people weren’t in love with. So when I saw an older kid at the bar wearing a MCD shirt, I got pretty excited. At 19, about the only requirement for friendship was “a good taste in music,” so my friends and I began to talk with him and his crew of about six or seven other guys. We joked about what we had seen at the convention and how Jerry Only was bound to show up at some time or another… and then someone brought up the guy in the SS costume.

Now this is where things got really strange. All of the air in the room seemed to get heavy, and as my friend awkwardly began to explain to them that being a Nazi was totally fucked, the new crew of guys with good taste in music and t-shirts suddenly changed their posture.

Long story short: turns out the new kids thought being a Nazi wasn’t totally uncool and so we disagreed with them with our fists and knees and hotel bar furniture until the cops showed up. Moral of that story, kids: don’t ever judge someone based solely on their band attire or musical taste, and always be prepared to be shocked as shit by the things you thought you knew, but don’t actually know at all.

If you were to tell me the brand new Murder City Devils album The White Ghost Has Blood on Its Hands Again, the Seattle band’s first collection of new music in 13 years, would begin like Ink & Dagger covering the MC5, I would tell you that was incorrect. Because I know MCD, I have them pegged. And that description doesn’t fit the formula… the formula that I was sure as shit I knew to be true. You don’t stop making albums and then 13 years later get together and make a blistering album that shows depth and growth! You set the dial way down, maybe halfway to five, and write a few clunkers that remind fans of the old days, but just not as good, and then maybe you get your shit together for the next one. That’s the way it’s done, I’ve seen it… it’s not pretty, but that’s what people do.

Well, nope, not the MCD. The Murder City Devils are not only set to eleven and a half on this album, but they are poised to surprise and impress without seemingly giving two fucks about what you might have expected. Well, within reason. Like singer Spencer Moody growls on the opening track, “I don’t wanna work for scum anymore/but I have needs.” I may never have heard something more raw and true.

The White Ghost Has Blood on Its Hands Again comes on like a shotgun blast to the temple, and “I Don’t Wanna Work for Scum Anymore” may be the best opening track since 2010’s “White Crosses” by Against Me! (from the album of the same name). Now, don’t get me wrong, the MCD have a history of great first songs, but those come on more like an infection than a “Surprise! Fuck, I’m Dead”-style attack. Usually the fever creeps in and sets the tone for what you are about to experience: Some drums, some organ, you get the sweats. But The White Ghost… just rears up on two legs and before you can grab a hold of your balance to figure out what’s just happened, it’s already too late for you. “Fuck you pig/Can’t catch what you can’t see.”

Let me be clear: there are moments on The White Ghost… when you know you are still listening to a Murder City Devils album, albeit a fantastic one, but this band has grown, whether they did it in front of us or not, and you will easily be able to distinguish where in their discography this one lies. The elements are there, the familiar feelings are present, but there is something new and different about the air surrounding them; they have evolved. “Pale Disguise” begins with the familiarity of a bass and drums intro, and the eventual addition of an organ, but as many times as I listen to it, it’s still a surprise how it all comes together. The instrumentation is deliberate and supportive, and yet it has a spirit about it that makes you think it could fall off the rails at any second. I began listening to this song with uneasiness, rooting for the band to keep it together, and although I know it will all somehow end in the pocket, I can’t help but squirm in my seat like I’m watching a car chase down the dangerous curves of Mulholland Drive. Yes, things are familiar but they keep you guessing. That is not an easy task for a band that has been together (off and on) for 18 years.

The trip the Devils take us on this time around is full of twists and full-on experiences. One of my favorite stops along this journey might be “Hey Playboy,” which at times reminds me of my uncle by marriage getting whiskey-drunk at a party and singing his very own version of “96 Tears” to a Walkman with waning batteries. I cite this experience in an extremely positive way.

If you told me Spencer Moody went into the studio with a few lines and ideas jotted down on a piece of paper and recorded the full album in sequence, in one take, I would probably believe you — the band sounds deliberate yet free, brash yet in complete control. Everyone in the band picks their moment, and when the time comes they hold nothing back. Moody sings from the gut, and there is no question of his commitment to his words. It’s as if they hit ‘record,’ started the first song and Moody wailed his way right through the whole album in one take. The whole time you’re wondering, how can he possibly go on? Does he have one more in him? “Don’t Worry,” the three-and-a-half-minute closer, definitively answers that question, as well as this one: “What if the Velvet Underground had been the Stax Records house band instead of Booker T. & the MG’s?”

I recommend you spend some time with this album — it really has a hold on me.

Frank Iero is an American singer-songwriter, guitarist and visual artist. He is best known as the guitarist and backing vocalist for My Chemical Romance, as well as the singer for the hardcore band Leathermouth, and electronic/noise outfit Death Spells. Frank’s solo career started in 2013 shortly after My Chemical Romance disbanded, and as Frnkiero and the Cellebration, he will release Stomachaches, his first solo album, on August 25, 2014 through Staple Records. You can follow him on Twitter here.