Got a treat for you today. My significant other, Andy, has put together his thoughts on the new Brett Anderson autobiography. It’s not a book I’d typically read, so something a bit different for you to peruse.
As a special treat for you all and to celebrate National Writing Day (Wednesday 27th June), I’ve agreed to write a guest review (no nagging involved honest) and it’ll be a little different from the style you’re used to, I’m afraid. Normal service will resume shortly so please do not adjust your blog.
I recently finished the autobiography of Brett Anderson, lead singer and founder member of one of my favourite bands, Suede. The prospect of learning all the juicy gossip on the acrimonious break-up from collaborator Bernard Butler, a loss to the band that was as significant to me as the demise of Take That which some of my contemporaries struggled with greatly, was irresistible.
Imagine my horror that Brett was to immediately tell me that this was the story to the point of their record deal. You know, the boring bit of any autobiography where the writer complains about their childhood, wails on endlessly about the relationship with their parents (good or bad), and talks about their school friends and which went onto become policemen and teachers. At least there are always the embarrassing photographs of them as kids to skip to…..no, none of them either. Right, let’s dive in then.
Immediately the voice I’ve known through the lyrics of Suede comes to the fore, the unmistakable descriptions and wry observations on life. Soon I forget that we’re only getting the first glimpse of the band from playing to two blokes in a Camden pub to signing that deal. I also learn that it is the loss of a different and founder member of the band, Justine Frischmann (later of Elastica), that has the greatest effect on this story. This moulded the sound, character and future direction of Suede and Brett himself, as they were romantically together at the time. This surprising focus was refreshing, unexpected and welcome, and when Bernard arrives in the timeline I’d almost forgotten he was due to show up (forgive me, Bernard).
The other delight contained in the relatively light number of pages is the insight into the early songs, their meaning and how they have been influenced by Brett’s life experiences. Especially ‘The Living Dead’, a beautiful song which is given even more poignancy through finding out its origins.
Brett does like the expression ‘Coal Black Mornings’ and my only small complaint is that once you’ve used it and explained it, to keep repeating it is a little jarring. It kept taking me out of the prose thinking, ‘oh that’s the title of the book again’.
If you like Suede, it’ll add to the experience of listening to those early albums. If you like biographies, it’s a decent one. If you don’t like either, it might not be for you, but you never know.
This review was written to the soundtrack of Suede – Night Thoughts (2016), which is their best work since Dog Man Star and the departure of Bernard Butler. This album demonstrates a maturity of song-writing and production that Suede seem to have previously not allowed themselves to undertake. An old fashioned album that is a complete designed piece (not to be listened to on shuffle) that takes you on a satisfying journey from start to finish with soaring highs and some Mariana Trench lows. Bonus mini-album review for you there.
Coal Black Mornings by Brett Anderson is published by Little, Brown priced £16.99.