Book Review: The True Lives of My Chemical Romance: The Definitive Biography
It was around 2004 that My Chemical Romance really made an impact on the UK rock scene, following the release of their second album. ‘Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge’ and the single ‘I’m Not Okay (I Promise)’. They were full of angst and had an over dramatic flair. They churned out anthem after anthem for the teenagers of that generation (including myself for a while). However, somewhere along the line the media started referring to them as ‘emo’ or ‘emotional hardcore’ and associated them with the promotion of mental health problems like self-harming, albeit inaccurately. It’s something that is addressed vehemently by lead singer Gerard Way in this biography: “Basically, it’s never been accurate to describe us. Emo bands were being booked while we were touring with Christian metal bands because no one would book us on tours. I think emo is fucking garbage, it’s bullshit. I think there’s bands that unfortunately we get lumped in with that are considered emo and by default that starts to make us emo. All I can say is anyone actually listening to the records, put the records next to each other and listen to them and there’s actually no similarities. I think emo’s a pile of shit”.
This linking to the emo genre made them a band you either passionately loved or hated or in some cases, secretly loved. Regardless of whether you liked them or not throughout their twelve year reign, they produced 5 albums (including their greatest hits) and toured the world extensively to sold out arenas, a great deal more than most bands accomplish. During these twelve years, Tom Bryant spoke to the band more than any other journalist and gained access to My Chemical Romance like nobody else, which made him the best man for the job when it came to writing an MCR biography.
Where the book falls down is the constant emphasis on Gerard’s drinking problem. Yes, alcoholism is a very serious problem and shouldn’t be neglected as part of the singer’s journey and the impact it could/did have on My Chemical Romance but Bryant seems like he’s trying to keep people reading in the hope of an epic disaster or meltdown by repeatedly saying that Gerard’s drinking would soon take its toll. There also seems to be some bias in relation to their first drummer that is unnecessary. The band may have split from Pelissier because of differences but they carried on successfully, so the bitter references to him strike me as uncalled for. However, it does have to be remembered that this is a biography and not an autobiography.
The True Lives of My Chemical Romance gives you the back story to almost every song they’ve created, the meaning behind the album concepts and the impact that writing/producing/touring had on the individual members. I personally had no idea that their drummer Bob almost died as a result of recording the video for ‘Famous Last Words’ and it’s behind the scenes stories like that, that make the book worth reading. It gives a realistic look into what becoming a world class band really entails, and it’s far from the stereotypical partying every night.
If you’re a serious MCR fan and are having withdrawals, especially since two members have announced solo albums then this book is worth the read. It provides you with an intimate look at the backgrounds and pasts of each member, giving you insight into how Gerard was able to create such imaginative and dramatic concepts, it tells you of the heartbreak behind ‘Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge’ and how the creation of ‘The Black Parade’ almost split them up. Most importantly it reminds you of just how many fabulous songs they've released and allows you to relive each one with new knowledge and fresh appreciation.