Loath as My Chemical Romance might be to admit it, they were once an emo band, as their teaming of jagged pop-punk with love-is-pain lyrical histrionics attests. But it didn't take long for the New Jersey group to beef up their bluster and expand their scope. The Black Parade (2006) circled around a motif no less mighty than cancer. Danger Days, another concept album, shoots MCR into a whole new stratosphere. The record's narrative is set in a Tank Girl–esque 2019, where an outlaw gang called the Killjoys combat a dirty corporation, Better Living Industries. (Overzealous radio DJ Dr. Death Defying appears in interludes to remind you that there's a story.) Really, though, you don't need a plot guide to see that this fourth album glows with a spit-shined vitality. As Gerard Way said earlier this year, MCR have shifted away from Black Parade bloat to harness shorter proto-punk songs in the name of the Stooges or the MC5. Most of this sounds like what the Riverboat Gamblers would be making if they could burn a bigger budget. The sonics are charged with thunderous enthusiasm, the production is jubilantly crisp. Danger Days' transcendentally intense first single, "Na Na Na," typifies the record's power, and it's one of 2010's best tracks. But there are highlights everywhere, like the synth-infused "The Only Hope for Me Is You," and the hefty "DESTROYA," and "Vampire Money," a hyperactive climax with a demented chorus ("Three, two, one, we came to fuck/Everybody party till the gasman comes"). The only sore spots are a few derivative turns, like the blandly saccharine "Summertime." If the down-and-out, early-MCR-worshipping emo set need the equivalent of an "It Gets Better" video to remind them how awesome life can be, no document could be more spirited and persuasive than Danger Days.