Those looking for a “Helena,” or a return to the opera-rock of My Chemical Romance‘s 2006 winner The Black Parade, on former MCR lead singer Gerard Way‘s solo debut, Hesitant Alien, should keep the receipt. On the LP, which comes in the wake of My Chemical Romance’s 2013 breakup, Way ages out of arena teen-rock and graduates to the glossy muscle of Britpop. It’s the Pulp album the world didn’t know it needed.
Gerard Way Forgets My Chemical Romance, Goes Full ’80s in New ‘No Shows’ Video
As with every Way project, it’s slick and expensive sounding, with smart styling that leads fans into new territory while maintaining the best parts of his dramatic songwriting. Way’s ear for melody means plenty of huge hooks, from the post-hardcore bent of “Juarez” to “Get the Gang Together,” which borrows directly from Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker‘s cache of cool. The music is more subdued than My Chemical Romance’s, but Way’s still not as understated as the influencers he’s channeling. His storied themes of love and pain pop up throughout Hesitant Alien like embarrassing Facebook statuses. It’s a largely smooth transition out of the dark and into the bright world of pop — even if the sneered request to “give me teenage razors” on “Zero Zero” is enough to remind you that you can take the man out of My Chemical Romance, but you can’t take the My Chemical Romance out of the man.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 4 issue of Billboard.