It's over-the-top, hokey and reeking of pretension. It's also something of a monumental triumph for a band whose music is best reserved for guilty pleasures and teenage mallpunks. That's not to say it doesn't occasionally drag from the hang-ups of said divisions: fist-pumping, cookie-cutter riffs, high school lyrics and overreaching stabs at anthemic glory.
Still, intriguing are the successes The Black Parade does achieve: Most notably, the baffling way it turns forced tunes like "Welcome to the Black Parade" and "Cancer" into overachievers. In the former, grand histrionics mesh with a clumsy bid at the epic rock opera (the song is barely five minutes) to achieve a kind of pleasing catharsis, while the latter tackles the tricky subject of terminal illness with a predictably maudlin structure and awkward lyrics ("Baby, I'm just soggy from the chemo") only to somehow manage a transcendence of sorts.
Those weaker moments help explain how a song like "Mama" can mix klezmer, cock-rock and Liza Minnelli without being a trainwreck. Or, how "Teenagers," a Nuge-style arena anthem, can channel the ghosts of classic rock too perfectly to resist (despite its troubling lines: "If you're troubled and hurt / What you got under your shirt / Will make them pay for the things that they did?").
At worst, The Black Parade deserves faint adoration. At best, it'll make you reconsider walking past Hot Topic (probably cranking this out day and night) for the millionth time in your life. It's probably best just to get (or rip) yourself a copy for private consumption.