Wednesday 30 January 2019

Review by Colin Gardiner of "Coal Black Mornings" by Brett Anderson

Brett Anderson, lead singer of the indie group, Suede, describes an eccentric childhood in an ‘oddball’ family's marginal existence in a Sussex housing estate. The portrayal of life in a commuter hinterland is sharply observed, from childhood land-fill explorations, family gossip and adolescent angst in the local comprehensive school. Anderson describes suburban boredom fraught with tension along with the possibility of escape through creativity, in affecting detail.

Anderson’s mother was a frustrated artist. She encouraged creativity within her young family, with a ‘make-do’ attitude, but, ultimately, was destined for domestic servitude to an overbearing, but sensitive father - a classical-music-obsessed taxi driver. 

The most effective sections of the book describe the complicated relationship between father and son. Anderson uses biography as a way of examining the relationship with his father, in order to strengthen the bond with his own young son. Anderson’s emotional collapse and subsequent spiritual paralysis at the death of his mother is devastating, and subconsciously affected his subsequent songwriting and creative persona.  

The tribal youth culture of the eighties is also sharply observed. Anderson describes an existence on the outside of the mainstream, not quite fitting in between the goths, headbangers and neo-mods. His adolescent awkwardness will be instantly familiar to any readers who came of age in the Thatcher years.

Life in an almost unimaginable pre-gentrification London is also portrayed, in a series of dope-hazed bed-sits, lager-soaked concert venues and cramped recording studios. His band was no overnight sensation, and the struggle of poorly attended gigs, inept songwriting and the search for musical identity in an indifferent business is revealed, in unflinching hilarious detail.  

Coal Black Mornings is an honest account set in the dying embers of youth culture in the United Kingdom. A highly recommended read, at turns heartbreaking, excruciatingly hilarious and always convincing.

About the reviewer
Colin Gardiner lives in Coventry. He is currently studying an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. He writes short stories and poetry.

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