It seems to be a necessary yet tiresome evil that band biography writers never miss a chance to emphasise how many times they were granted unique and "unparalleled access" to the rock stars' inner circle. This may not be a trap that music journalist Tom Bryant manages to swerve, but it's easy to appreciate how it might be a laudable achievement to truly get under the skin of My Chemical Romance.

Adored by many, derided by others, the band that typified yet shunned the radio-friendly emo revival of the mid-noughties endured a tough but rapid rise to the top. When journalists forever seemed to want to ask more questions about whether their music encouraged teens to self-harm, the group were understandably wary of media insight.

Stripping away the tabloid scare-mongering and knitting together countless interviews and encounters spanning the rockers' twelve-year career, the author presents a commemorative and full-storied tapestry detailing the "MCR" journey from New Jersey nothingness to arena-filling, chart-topping, platinum-selling icons of the 21st century alternative scene before their split in 2012. With the help of countless archive photos, Bryant does a particularly fine job of narrating the behind-the-scenes story of the Ways - the two brothers central to the formation, longevity and success of the band.

Mired in depression and seeking a creative outlet at the turn of the millennium, Gerard believed his true calling was cartoons, while Mikey managed to entrench himself within the embryonic Eyeball Records; the label that would play a crucial role in My Chem's early exposure. The elder Way soon found himself the unlikely heartthrob at the helm of one of the most successful modern rock acts alongside his bassist brother, guitarists Ray Toro and Frank Iero, and a fluctuating line-up of drummers that began with Matt Pellisier.

By focussing on how particularly Gerard's personal experiences of loneliness and rejection affected the group's lyrical output, the writer underlines that it was love, acceptance and an underdog mentality that were key to the MCR ethos. Rarely succumbing to the sag and space-filling of similar celebrity tributes, Bryant's is an inquisitive, enlightening and quietly reverential portrait of a divisive yet unforgettable rock outfit who had a dazzling decade in the limelight and whose influence can be felt in new acts forming today.


Lauren James

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