This week I have found myself at opposing ends of the theatre circuit both geographically (in London, naturally) and in terms of capacity, first watching the emo bombast of My Chemical Romance within the splendid surrounds of Brixton Academy and more recently witnessing the explosive anarchy of Marmaduke Duke at the Water Rats. Both gigs were damn fine but that poses the eternal question of: "Which of the bands was the best?!?" Who can say for sure? Me! Obviously. I’ll make it sort of like a science report as well. I don't know why. It doesn’t really matter why.
How they fare on record…
My Chemical Romance are at a bit of an advantage in terms of prepping me because they've released two records to Marmaduke Duke's solitary offering thus far, but the pedigree is all there in both. While MCR's wildly catchy, chorus-driven emo-rock was executed in oft-appalling fashion on their debut, things improved tenfold for the successor with Gerard Way's impossibly clean vocals throwing his disastrously teenaged lyrics at a perfectly performed score. They play this stuff in nightclubs and you sing along. And you hate yourself for loving it. I guarantee it.
The Duke's tri-conceptual megamix is a wonderfully challenging adventure into their mountainous dynamics all the way from the furious opening through the lilting Scottish twangs of their lullabies to the spasmodic finale. Inklings of their forthcoming follow-up indicate a disco-tastic direction to the unorthodox instrumentation we have heard so far.
_ROUND UP! _My Chemical Romance consistently sculpt wonderful singalong songs that appeal to the angst-riddled teenagers we all are or have been and Marmaduke Duke create restless anthems of questionable content that attract only the unattractables and the converted.
**My Chemical Romance 8 **Marmaduke Duke 6
What they do to me when I go see a gig…
This is where you get to see how good the bands really are because if you can’t play your song at the drop of the hat, you are NOTHING. Fact. MCR do just that and they do it damn well. With all the pomp and visual imagery that one might want from an American stageshow, the five come onstage to near-biblical applause with huge stained glass windows as their backdrop and a reverend’s dog collar garrotting Gerard Way [I wish - Ed]. Playing all the hits from their two records whilst baiting the crowd with a formidable energy, MCR play superbly despite being hindered by crap sound.
The Magnificent Duke himself arrives onstage complete with cape and mask, but he is a mere onlooker as The Dragon and The Atmosphere – so long shrouded in deep mystery – take the stage swathed so as to partially obscure their faces, assisted by scrumptious Scottish rhythm. This is, of course, the ‘Biffy Clyro with their mate JP’ side project where you see Simon Neil screaming so hard you imagine his corneal limbus and medulla oblongata may just be ejected into the crowd along with him as he corrupts and convolutes every idea you may have ever had about the Biffy Clyro frontman. JP Reid is the perfect foil for such convulsive industry as he controls his side of the stage with perfectly wilting love songs and virtuous use of his guitar. Wonderful.
_ROUND UP! _While MCR make the show all very tasty and shiny and play their pop songs with all the verve and gusto you need to dance like a muppet, The Duke shred you a new hole in your favourite live bands list and play their new songs with the handclaps and disco beats to make you dance like a muppet. Close call!
My Chemical Romance 7 Marmaduke Duke 9
How good they look and how much I want to be them…
MCR live off their image, whether it be in a photoshoot or an interview or when playing a show. The boys tend to be found sporting some awful hairdos of the emo nature – yes that reverse mullet thing – and the obvious piercings are there for all to see. However, the effort put into their live shows for their fans to follow like sheep have included silly bulletproof vests in the summer (sheer madness) and the previously mentioned more pious clothing manifestation of late. It has all been in shades of black, though, so some plus points.
It’s fake as hell but if you really wanna do it properly then do it the way Marmaduke Duke has done it. Barely cloaked identities notwithstanding, the promotional shots and biographies of the duo-cum-quartet feature fictitious names and hidden faces, thus multiplying any little hype there was. The appearance of The Duke himself onstage helped create a superbly surreal pantomime atmosphere that I’ve not felt since Slipknot arrived and started jumping off balconies onto me (and other people).
_ROUND UP! _There is no way the sideshow that is Marmaduke Duke can be beaten in terms of sheer stupid weirdness. Not even by rubbish emo hair.
My Chemical Romance 6 Marmaduke Duke 10
How annoying/great are their fans…
The MCR fans are so Scene it hurts with their lovingly tamed fringes and copycat fashions. On the plus side, I’ve never got to the bar at Brixton Academy quite so fast – a testament to the fact that very few over the age of 18 ‘get emo’. Stop crying at the back. You’re almost 23.
The Marmaduke fans were unsurprisingly made up primarily of hardcore Biffy Clyro fans that grabbed wind of an unlikely story that their heroes had an obscenely experimental disco-jazz-metal side project. Obviously the hardcore pisshead, Scottish-loving loons are the best! Also, it was the first time I’ve seen anyone try and crowdsurf at the Water Rats. Respect.
_ROUND UP! _ All the kids who read K! were at the MCR show. Fact. The man who makes K! more than just a comic (not me, another man, obviously) was watching The Duke. Emo loses another battle but will this prove to be decisive in the war?
My Chemical Romance 3 Marmaduke Duke 8
The chance of me being ostracised if I admit liking them…
MCR are just not credible at all. Claim you like MCR and you must automatically release the adjunct of “but they’re just, like, my guilty pleasure… y’know?” Yeah, I do know but that’s not going to stop you getting called a big crying gaybaby by metallers, punkers and indie kids alike. Don’t do things by halves and enjoy Kelly Clarkson instead/as well. Confound the critics and know that the only friends you have are beyond emo.
The Duke is incredible. You just don’t want to believe it. But it’s true. And it’s cool to know what Marmaduke Duke is within the correct indie circles. There were only, like, not many people at the Water Rats. It was beyond exclusive. Seriously. It was a one-off show as well, probably. So, like, you can’t even go to the next one and pretend you were at the first one because I would’ve seen you and so can disprove your LIES!
_ROUND UP! _ Indie exclusivity wins here as MCR play all the time to thousands of mini-moshers and The Duke plays rarely and inconspicuously to very few. Yeah. That’s right. I’m more indie than you. But I don’t really like indie music. Anyway.
My Chemical Romance 1 Marmaduke Duke 9
But what does this mean in the grand scheme of things?? Let’s tot all those points up and get some…
_…FINAL SCORES: _
My Chemical Romance 25 Marmaduke Duke 42
(I may have counted wrong but I don’t care)
My five criteria, and indeed the FINAL SCORES, suggest that Marmaduke Duke, The Magnificent Duke is actually and undoubtedly the best band out of the two. With the Americans taking a foetal lead having released the greater recorded output, their Scottish opponents’ live atrocities and glossy posturing meant that they were eventually trounced like the sissies they can’t be. Mental. It was the little things that counted in the end, with the obscene effort put into disguises, their die-hard fans and MCR’s overt lack of coolness taking The Duke over the line in some style. Good stuff. Mon The Duke and all that. Whatever. I’m going to go put on Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge and sing. Bye!
**Next week: Motorhead vs Korn