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A beginner’s guide to Frank Iero for the casual fan

When Frank Iero played a set at Utopia Records a few years back, the line to get in ran blocks around Sydney’s CBD. The compulsion to see him, not simply as the guitarist of My Chemical Romance but playing a solo set, had fans waiting for hours, merch-clad and ready to suffer on burning concrete for the experience. Legions showed up for Iero, a testament to the quality of what he had put out on his own. With a new EP out in the world as of January, we look at the cuts from Iero’s discography that have converted the masses. Sure, it’s a little robust, but you needn’t be a fan of his early work or even My Chemical Romance to find something to hitch your wagon to. Here’s our friendly guide to help you navigate your way through.

‘Trying To Escape The Inevitable’ – Pencey Prep (Heartbreak in Stereo, 2001)

On the cusp of the inception of my Chemical Romance, Iero was playing in Pencey Prep. The Jersey act was signed to the same label that put out My Chem’s debut album, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love. But that wasn’t Iero’s first full-length released on the label. Heartbreak in Stereo, which got its own re-press relatively recently, explains a lot about Iero’s roots. You can trace the influence of Pencey Prep on My Chemical Romance’s first album by listening to ‘Trying To Escape The Inevitable’, with a guitarline and unclean vocals that bear great resemblance to the vibe of the Bullets record. Aside from that, it purely slaps.

‘I Am Going To Kill The President Of The United States’ – LeATHERMOUTH (XO, 2009)

Perhaps the most controversial of Iero’s discography represents best his hope for a better world. It turns out that writing a song about killing the President is a sure-fire way to get yourself raided by the Secret Service. Speaking to Alt Press way back in 2009, Iero explained that the song, which was in reference to George W. Bush, earned him quite the run-in: “The government comes to your house, searches everything and talks to your wife for hours,” he said at the time. “Then you have to get a real expensive attorney to keep you out of prison for five years.” While the track is still readily available and even on Spotify, technically it wasn’t supposed to be re-released as part of the record by Iero’s hardcore project LeATHERMOUTH or played live ever again. How punk is that?

‘B.F.F.’ – frnkiero. featuring Lily and Cherry Iero (B.F.F., 2014)

Sure, Frank Iero is a rock icon, but he’s also a family man. In the clip for ‘B.F.F.’, he hangs out with his adorable twin daughters sporting extremely tiny guitars and singing about a friendship dissolution. They’re all dressed like bandits for some reason, probably not to pretend to be Twenty One Pilots but more for the sake of privacy, but it is uniquely Iero-esque and undeniably endearing.

‘Weighted’ – frnkiero and the cellabration (Stomachaches, 2014)

If there’s such thing as polished DIY, then Frank Iero nails it. On ‘Weighted’, he kicks off a series of records under his solo moniker. Suffering from health issues, he took solace in turning to working on the album, on which he plays the majority of instruments bar the drums, which were taken over by My Chem drummer Jarrod Alexander. The first single is a fun meditation on anxiety and adulthood, combined with a clip that sees zombie Frank turning on a group of kids in a mini-horror film his own children definitely wouldn’t be allowed to watch.

‘I Don’t Know Much, But I Know I Loathe You’ – Death Spells (Nothing Above, Nothing Below, 2016)

If you have a strong eye or you’re a diehard My Chemical Romance fan, you would have noticed James Dewees lurking in the background of many a show. During one such time of collaboration with My Chemical Romance, Iero and Dewees decided to sneak some equipment out of a recording studio to mess around with it, and at that time Death Spells was born. Described as “digital hardcore”, ‘I Don’t Know Much, But I Know I Loathe You’ is the pinnacle of full-length album Nothing Above, Nothing Below, a filthy, filthy industrial masterpiece.  

‘I’m A Mess’ – Frank Iero and the Patience (Parachutes, 2016)

While his health issues informed most of Stomachaches, somehow on Parachutes, Iero got more serious still. Now under the brand of Frank Iero and the Patience, Iero’s focus turned to the concept of what stops us from falling, noting that “love of my family and my ability to create art and music has always been my parachute.” Musically, ‘I’m A Mess’ could have easily found a place all the way back to Pencey Prep’s Heartbreak in Stereo, but thematically, it was a different story. The entire album expressed Iero’s gratitude about what’s kept him out of the gutter and off the ground, a far cry from the angst of his yesteryear.

‘Medicine Square Garden’ – Frank Iero and The Future Violents (Barriers, 2019)

Between Parachutes and Barriers, life got a little fucked up for Frank Iero. Following a brush with death in a bus accident in Sydney towards the end of 2016 with his brother-in-law and guitarist Evan Nestor, Iero started re-evaluating what it means to live a human life, a reflection ultimately documented on his next studio album. ‘Medicine Square Garden’ ended up being the highlight of Barriers, featuring a batshit crazy video wherein GWAR attack Iero and his bandmates as they play during an ‘80s themed workout session that looks like it came straight out of American Horror Story: 1984. Delegated as the foundation upon which the record was formed, Iero flagged that it “terrified” him “far beyond any other song” that he’d ever written.

‘Losing My Religion’ – Frank Iero and The Future Violence (Heaven Is A Place, This Is A Place, 2021)

Here we were thinking that the classic REM song ‘Losing My Religion’ had been done to death until Iero and his band took it on for their latest EP, Heaven Is A Place, This Is A Place. Perhaps why this cover is so good is because of how it was conceived. Following the accident, ‘Losing My Religion’ was a recurring comfort in the process of recovery. Kayleigh Goldsworthy, a member of his support band, shared Iero’s love for the song, and eventually ended up being in this incarnation of Frank Iero and The Future Violents, now The Future Violence. When Goldsworthy and Iero demoed the song, Iero narrated it as “like magic and that was the moment I was convinced this couldn’t be the only thing we did together.”

Heaven Is A Place, This Is A Place is out now via UNFD.