Hesitant Alien (2014)

... read moreThe very title of Hesitant Alien conjures memories of David Bowie, just like how the album artwork evokes the Thin White Duke's iconic cover for Heroes (which was later repurposed for Bowie's own The Next Day). Such deliberate allusions are Gerard Way's sly nod to his audience, an admission of how...

Review

The very title of Hesitant Alien conjures memories of David Bowie, just like how the album artwork evokes the Thin White Duke's iconic cover for Heroes (which was later repurposed for Bowie's own The Next Day). Such deliberate allusions are Gerard Way's sly nod to his audience, an admission of how he belongs to an art-punk tradition that stretches back several decades, but his first solo effort after the disbandment of My Chemical Romance isn't a re-creation of the glory days of glam. Way does indulge in T. Rex stomps and flirts with Bowie's interstellar swagger -- not to mention his cadence sometimes echoes Eno and he's savvy enough to thread saxophone into the background on "Get the Gang Together" -- but the heart of Hesitant Alien lies in the late '80s and early '90s, the time when all the arty strands of British and American post-punk converged on 120 Minutes. Sometimes Way creates a swirling, circular pastiche, sometimes he creates de facto tributes to individual bands ("Millions" is a dead ringer for prime Stone Roses), the two approaches blending to create a heady rush of sexy, stylish postmodern futurism. The clever thing about Hesitant Alien is, for as much as it consciously references the past, it's a record that never could've been played on college radio in 1990: the razor-thin guitars are too loud, the progressive pomp leans too heavily on '70s concept albums, Way retains the trappings of emo in his heated delivery but not his aesthetic. All this means that for as much as Way refers to other acts, this is a thoroughly original work, a vibrant reflection of all his artistic obsessions. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine