Friday, May 4, 2018

"Coal Black Mornings" by Brett Anderson (Little Brown, UK)

ISBN: 9781408710500
It is my interest to read memoirs that focus on the early years of its subject matter, due that I wrote a memoir "Tosh" (City Lights Books) that does the same thing.  Brett Anderson is the lyricist/songwriter and vocalist for the British band Suede.  A band that I had mixed feelings for, but since I read this book by Anderson, I re-listened to his work with Suede, and now I appreciate their music and stance in British pop music of the 1990s.  And they are still around, making interesting music.  Still, I didn't know what "Coal Black Mornings" will bring to the literary memoir table.  It's delicious. 

Like a Suede song, Anderson captures the English landscape of poverty and struggling with a family that is partly eccentric - (especially the dad) and the rush of growing up with nothing, yet there is a future if one takes it by the ears and shake it a bit here and there.  Born in a situation where Anderson felt trapped, it is art -both literature and music, which saved his hide. This book in a sense is a tribute to being focused on what you want to do, and not to lose sight of that goal or the world you want to obtain.   The book ends as Suede signs the recording contract with Nude Records, but the build-up to that point is a delightful read, from a superb prose writer.  He does get 'flowery' time-to-time, but it also serves him personality or character-wise, as well.  

My main problem with Suede is not the aesthetics, but that their references to their culture are apparent.  Saying that, and especially after reading this book, I think I'm a tad of a snob to criticize them for that alone.  The fact is that they can write songs like "Trash," while not totally original, is nevertheless a beautiful pop record with an excellent (catchy) chorus.  And "Coal Black Mornings" deals with that subject matter, with Anderson's approach to the songwriting craft, and his ability to stand alone, along with his bandmates, to work on the final product until they find it suitable.  

I'm not sure what Anderson is like in person, but in this book, he's very nice to his fellow musicians and seems to be very fair-minded chap.  So, this is not a gossipy book or one where he settles old scores, but more of an upbeat tale of his youth and hard work to obtain his vision.   In theory, these type of books are a bore, but due to his writing skills and insightful way he can describe London in such poetic but realistic terms, this book is a real winner. 

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