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Not the Life It Seems: The True Lives of My Chemical Romance

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My Chemical Romance is the most significant band in alternative rock in the last decade. Inspirational, original, and stunningly creative, they forged an extraordinary connection with their fans. Not the Life It The True Lives of My Chemical Romance is their definitive biography.

Author Tom Bryant has been given unparalleled access to the band over the years, and now he draws on interviews with Gerard Way, his brother Mikey, Ray Toro, and Frank Iero, as well as friends and associates, to bring their stories to life. In this unauthorized biography, he takes us behind the scenes from their very first show in front of thirty kids in New Jersey-the Ways downing beer to calm their nerves-to international arena-storming superstardom. He sheds light on the personal demons the bandmates battled and the haunted recording sessions that resulted in the brilliance of The Black Parade . He also explores the genesis of their music, the constant reinvention that culminated in the visual splendor of Danger The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys , and the strains that led to their split in 2013.

Insightful and revealing, Not the Life It Seems presents one of the most adored rock bands of this century, their story an epic saga of self-belief and the pursuit of dreams.

321 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2014

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Tom Bryant

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5 stars
453 (63%)
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62 (8%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 102 reviews
Profile Image for Arya.
56 reviews
October 29, 2015
I have so much to say about this book.

Firstly I want to talk about the author, Tom Bryant. Being so deeply in love with writing myself, I made note of Bryant's style of writing throughout the book. The True Lives of My Chemical Romance is a biography, and probably one of the first non-fiction books I have ever read. I had never expected to enjoy just the writing style itself as much as I do with fiction books. The smooth flow of the timeline was amazing; each MCR era slowly transitioned into the next through Bryant's text; there were no jumps or cuts. His use of metaphors and images managed to represent My Chemical Romance's story so beautifully, it was practically like delving into a regular storybook.

Secondly, throughout the book, I kept in mind the fact that the majority of the quotes from the band members and their associates were from Bryant's interviews throughout several years. I know this must have been hard to put together, specially as it has been fourteen years since the formation of My Chemical Romance. Bryant's determination to tell a story that the whole world needs to know, is evident in this writing.

Most importantly, this book gave me closure. It let me get over the fact that My Chem have ceased to be--something that an intense level of research (*cough* online stalking *cough*) failed to do for me. Now I understand the emotions of Ray, Mikey, Gerard and Frank, as they wrote, recorded, posed, performed, toured, and even when the Way brothers got drunk with self destruction in their minds. When I listen to each album now, for every track, I remember what the band or mostly Gerard and/or Ray were feeling when they wrote a certain song. I think of the hidden meanings behind each track of The Black Parade, with Gerard's personal thoughts curled up inside the massive black abyss that was the thoughts of The Patient. I feel happiness, joy, and a feeling of relief when I listen to Danger Days, knowing how relaxed, even though for only a little bit, the band finally were when working on this album. I feel happy that, for a short period of time, they were no longer struggling in their own skins. I feel happy that the emotional rollercoaster The Black Parade had taken them on had stopped haunting them. I finally understand why My Chem, though probably too soon, had to part ways.

As musicians, My Chemical Romance have touched me in a completely different, glorious way. As individuals, with a passionate love for art, for being true, for being unafraid to "keep on living," My Chemical Romance have created a space of comfort for me and for several other fans; and despite the fact that they have broken up, they still live on among us, and I think that very simply shows how powerful the impact of this band really is.
Profile Image for nico.
35 reviews
November 10, 2022
(walter white collapsing) (katniss catching fire screaming covering ears) (the eternally expansive cosmic gravitational forces guiding the universe toward a second big bang) AMERICAN ROCK BAND MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE.
Profile Image for ra.
420 reviews56 followers
January 21, 2023
[CAR CRASH] [SIRENS] [CAT YOWLING] [GLASS SHATTERING] MY american rock band my chemical romance....
4 reviews
January 26, 2016
My Chemical Romance is one of my favorite bands so I really wanted to read Not the Life It Seems: The True Lives of My Chemical Romance because I wanted to know the background behind the band. I do really like this book because the author goes into great depth of the history of the band and the members of the band and their lives but there is one aspect of the book that is hard to look over and that is that the author tends to repeat himself very often. He will state something in one paragraph and a few paragraphs later he will restate it worded differently and this can get annoying after a while. I do recommend this book but only if you like the band. If you didn't already know background of the band or don't like their music then you might find yourself not caring and bored with the book.
Profile Image for Angela.
586 reviews51 followers
March 22, 2016
I have to admit I'm a lot late to this party. While I have always know of My Chemical Romance and always had a song or two of theirs on my iPod, I never really sat and listened to all their work until the end of 2015,despite having friends who were really big fans. And My Chemical Romance truly are absolutely amazing. So after listening to all their music non stop for about three months and binge watching live videos on youtube I decided to orded this book in january. Because of lots of life shit that happened I wasn't able to start it until last week,which led to me finishing the book today,22nd of March, of all days. The irony is not lost on me.

It is really interesting to what went into and what was the inspiration behind something so great.The book is really good look inside into everything that happened, and in a way I guess it's better that it ended while they were still good,instead of continuing until you wished they had stopped long before that.(*cough* Supernatural*cough*) Maybe I say that because I wasn't the fan of them I am today when they were still a band. I wish I had seen them live at some point,which lets be real woudn't have happened even if was was a big fan of them when they were still together (thank you geography). They left a huge impact on people and the music industry. I do love Frank Iero's solo album so much,and its so close to my heart, that I can't say i'm not glad that i am able to hear it because they are no longer together.

It is sad that its over,but it isn't over, not really. Gerard was right - "My Chemical Romance is done. But it can never die. " Exactly beause new people find out about them every day(like me,despite the fact that I am 22 years old),and so many people still listen to them every day. That is why they will never be truly gone. And that is beautiful.

"My Chemical Romance: 2001-2013:We were spectacular. "
Yes,they absolutely were.

Profile Image for Christy Rasmussen.
17 reviews1 follower
January 10, 2017
Written by someone who was on very good terms with the band, the author was able to get a remarkable amount of collaboration on what is an unofficial biography.

The book is focused and interesting. It gives good insight, not just on the band members, but on the scene surrounding them.

Definitely a must-read for fans of this iconic band.
Profile Image for Mols.
92 reviews1 follower
January 25, 2023
3.5 rounded up. love the band just wish the book was executed better in some parts
Profile Image for Kairan.
33 reviews5 followers
December 27, 2022
edit: goodreads is super weird about re-reads but i just read it again, three years after the last time. i was correct and the return has been more profound and divine and invigorating than i possibly could have imagined. i never thought i'd see gerard, who i've adored and emulated for a decade now and found solace in with my own gender journey, wearing skirts and dresses and boydrag on so many occasions, and like quite sincerely cheergate changed my life. i am so so thankful i got to see them live, and though i hope they're back for the long haul, i feel so much more at peace with whatever could happen because they literally changed my life yet again. i also maintain that their decline and breakup was a legitimate american tragedy and i DESPERATELY need bryant to write a return post-script.

my favourite book about my favourite band.

I clung to this book in middle school. in the wake of the break up of the band that (cliché alert) "Saved My Life", this was a much needed reminder of all of the good and an explanation of the bad. the only thing was the fact that, only a year after the breakup, there still really wasn't a satisfying way to understand what had happened.
re-reading as a now 19 year old living through the California 2019 revival (which I TOLD YALL would happen! 13 year old kai knew things!), awaiting whatever the hell MCRXX is and having just today bought tickets to see them in Jersey (HEY WHAT??), my heart is healed. I've grown, the band has aged, and the world is so different. I think we're all in a pretty damn good and deserving place for this. I feel a huge sense of clarity and the breakup is no longer a gaping wound shared by millions of listeners.

this book is so damn funny. at its heart, my chemical romance is art, and it's highly conceptual, and it's the most spectacularly subversive band of a Hot Minute, and it's made up genuinely funny and personable dudes. Bryant offers a unique perspective by virtue of sheer proximity as a journalist who first interviewed them during Revenge, reviewed Danger Days, and essentially checked in with them every few steps of the way. His research and thoroughness is fantastic, and he offers a ton of stories that have never been told before. For instance, it's the only place you'll hear about Alex Saavedra punching Gerard in the mouth despite his abscessed tooth to make him sing better. But it's also the most detailed account of how brutally The Black Parade tried to kill this band, uncomfortable truths about the pervasive problems that brought about the bands end, and a ton of other things I wouldn't have known about otherwise.

For a fan of the band I obviously can't recommend this book enough - but it's also such a simply fascinating and vivid biography, I'd recommend it to the most casual of readers. It's a superb account of the most special band of our lifetime.
Profile Image for Sian Hayley.
1 review1 follower
October 27, 2015
The final words of this book are heartbreaking and that's coming from someone who lived through the ending when it happened.

I'd like to thank Tom Bryant for writing this, it has provided more closure than My Chemical Romance did when they announced their split on their website, and it has a lot of exclusive interviews in it that give a huge insight into the band from the beginning right to the end.

I've read two other books on this band and this one was definitely the best, even though there is still a stronger emphasis on Gerard's input than the other members, this book is still a lot more balanced in terms of credit than the other books I've read, acknowledging that this was definitely not a one man band.

Every fan of this band should read this book.
Profile Image for Maren Hjorth.
94 reviews9 followers
December 8, 2021
Just a wonderful read. ❤️ Not that much in here that superfans won't already know about (though I actually did learn a thing or two!), but reading it all laid out chronologically like this put things into perspective in a great way. It made me reconsider a few things and see this band in a new light - namely, as real and flawed humans rather than just rock icons.

It was a really good deep dive on a band I love and I had a blast. (And wow, what an undertaking on the author's part!).
Profile Image for kingboycar.
76 reviews
August 30, 2022
‘You know, even The Beatles broke up,’ he sighs. ‘I don’t think it was ever on the cards for us to do it for ever.’ However, he then says one last thing. ‘But that doesn’t mean I don’t wish we could have.’
Profile Image for Emma.
195 reviews31 followers
January 5, 2023
we are so lucky that we are existing at the same time as my chemical romance. this book has some flaws and could have used some editing, but overall it offers a lot if insight into the band throughout the years.
Profile Image for Tess.
125 reviews67 followers
March 26, 2020
4.75 Stars

I'll write a review when I'm ready. I just started school and I'm not sure how much I want to say/write about this book yet. Probably more than I'll ever be able to. Stay tuned!

Edit: So originally I said that I would eventually get around to writing a review for this, but then school took over, and then the band actually got back together lol, and now I have no idea what I was even gonna say. Basically, MCR is one of my all-time favorite bands and it was great getting to learn more about the meaning behind each song and how the band got started! A lot in here I already knew, but there was definitely plenty of unknown facts to keep me interested. :)
Profile Image for Nicole.
84 reviews22 followers
October 17, 2014
Wow, I must admit I've never enjoyed biographies but this interested me it gave me a bigger insight into the songs from the band I've always loved and looked up to, now I understand the break up and big thanks to the writer for making this possible.
Profile Image for Ruth.
2 reviews
January 20, 2022
if you thought i already knew enough about my chemical romance think again
Profile Image for Yan Castaldo.
66 reviews1 follower
September 21, 2022
could’ve used a healthy dose of editing but the band’s story was delightfully told and it was really fun to read through :)
Profile Image for flora.
36 reviews
August 7, 2020
worth it if nothing else for the final phone call with frank. not reinventing the wheel by any means, but largely good and sometimes great.
feel its too incriminating to mention that i don't feel i gleaned Huge amounts of new information, but that's more likely indicative of personal failings.
Profile Image for Luli Lee.
43 reviews2 followers
February 22, 2023
“And so the legacy they leave is one of brilliance and panache: a band who aimed for the stars and who saved lives as they reached them.”

I’ll admit I came into this book just wanting to know a little more fun facts about this band that I love, and was blown away by what I read. Tom Bryant does a great job of balancing the heaviness and darkness that can look over parts of the band’s life with the bright, wonderful moments. He takes great care to not lose sight of the fact that he’s writing about a group of regular young men, after all, despite the brilliance and stage lights.

The only reason I’m not giving this book five stars were the last chapters: they feel rushed and lackluster. I can see that’s a result from simply not having enough information; it seems like the band members were making an effort to live life more privately and as such there is less so be said about the four years that happened between the end of The Black Parade World Tour and the end of the band itself. After such a lovingly crafted book, though, the end becomes repetitive and loses direction in a manner that feels jarring. Maybe Bryant just wanted to get it out as soon as he could, so there was no time to sit with and process the information around the band’s ending. It does feel like he hadn’t gotten over the shock of this break up himself by the time he wrote the book, so the ending is just confused by it all.
Profile Image for Piper .
233 reviews30 followers
May 20, 2021
"...if for one minute you think you're better than a sixteen-year-old girl in a Green Day T-shirt, you are sorely mistaken."

I read this book because I was in the mood for some nostalgia, and I pretty much got what I came for. There were some issues: Terrible title, repetitive cliches, signs that the author (who is British) didn't know much about New Jersey, and 2-3 chapters that feel like they could've been edited out. Some of it doesn't seem to be his fault- the book got the band's blessing, but it's not an authorized biography. However, what it does have are interesting interviews from managers, producers, and the band's Frank Iero that ground it.

It's an attempt that succeeds in a couple areas: an accurate history of the band's rise and fall and a sobering study of the pitfalls of mental illness and addiction. I also enjoyed the detailed description of the band’s creative process, which is actually something that isn’t readily available in old interviews and magazine articles.

While many things go unsaid, for sure, and we are left with far more questions than answers, I’m 24, and I think I can stand to wait a little longer for a Meet Me in the Bathroom-esque take on those crazy pop-punk/emo years.
Profile Image for Lauren Evatt.
55 reviews5 followers
November 13, 2016
I thought this biography was quite a bit of fun to read and was very insightful. As a fan of My Chemical Romance I found the descriptions of how they made each of their records to be very informative. I enjoyed reading the many quotes and interviews and adored the photos in the middle. I also thought that the author did an excellent job of conveying what was going on around MCR at the time which is really helpful for someone who wasn't there when it happened. Overall I loved this book and would not only recommend this book to fans of the band but to anyone who wants to read the amazing journey of a great punk band from New Jersey. I would read this book while listening to your favorite MCR playlist and enjoy!
Profile Image for Elon Slootweg.
115 reviews2 followers
June 27, 2022
This one was an experience. Tom Bryant grants us all access to something fans of My Chemical Romance have so desperately been waiting for, for so long - information. This book gives us an idea, a view of the band behind, as well as in front of, the scenes. It explains, soothes and hurts those who have been heart-broken ever since the break op of the epic band. The last chapter, the last words, left me in tears, but they were good tears, because it hurt, but at least there was something like closure, something like understanding. I have been searching for that for a while, because the band meant (and still means) a lot to me, so thank you Tom, thank you band, and thank you sister who bought me this book.
Profile Image for Ominous Frog.
10 reviews
October 28, 2022
As far as nonfiction books about musicians go, this is very well done. Very informative. This is not a gossip rag. It gets down to the deep, the gritty, the raw, the emotional, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It terms of writing style, it definitely reads like a Kerrang! journalist wrote it. Fairly dry and reporter-esque at points, but my deep love of this band, and the author's deep love of this band, kept me hooked. This book would make anyone fall in love with these stinky sadboys. You can tell Bryant knows what he's talking about when it comes to the music industry as well, and it was very cool to have such an inside perspective about the way it all shakes out. If you're an MCR fan, or even just a music fan, it's a great time.
Profile Image for Rue Baldry.
526 reviews6 followers
March 22, 2017
This is well written and it's a great story. Bryant had a lot of access to MCR over the years, and he interviewed the key people about the times when he wasn't there. Very occasionally he repeats himself and, of course, there are incidents which people won't talk about. I admire Bryant for admitting when these occur and resisting the urge to make things up about them or even to make suggestions about what might have happened. Whether you're an MCR fan or not this is a great book about how people make music and there are some entertaining incidents described.
Profile Image for Megan.
49 reviews5 followers
April 13, 2016
I'm a My Chemical Romance fanatic. I thought I knew every single detail about this band. With that being said, I learned so much from Tom Bryant's book about them.

The only reason I gave this book 4 stars was because I felt he could have dug deeper. There were no new revelations on why Matt Pelissier was kicked out of the band, why Bob Bryar was kicked out of the band, why they parted ways with their manager, or what happened involving Mike Pedicone. I wish Bryant had dug deeper.
3 reviews
September 12, 2022
My 2022 reading goal was to finish this book before seeing MCR live in Boston and I'm happy to say I achieved that goal with about 24 hours to spare. I'm a sucker for a good music documentary and I've watched "Life on the Murder Scene" several times but had never read a music bio before. I feel more connected to the band having read it and firmly believe it to be required reading for any and all killjoys out there.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 102 reviews

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