How Utopia may grow from Coal Black Suburbia

The best band of the Britpop era was not Blur or Oasis, nor even Pulp, but Suede.

(Shout outs to Ash, Echobelly, Sleeper and Gene too.)

So it’s been interesting reading Brett Anderson’s brief memoir, Coal Black Mornings, of the period up to the point where he became famous and his story devolves into, as he put it, “the usual ‘coke and gold discs’ memoir”.

Coal Black Mornings (English Edition) eBook : Anderson, Brett:  Kindle Store

Comparing it to David Mitchell’s novel Utopia Avenue, which features a fictional band from the Sixties, it’s interesting to see the many overlaps. The early sections of Utopia Avenue are easily the most interesting.

Both are tales of three-bar fires, poky terrace houses, distant parents, and the edgy tedium of suburbia, all opening up into a London which is equated to liberty, albeit a grimy, pot-infused, impoverished kind of freedom.

The conclusion of Mitchell’s novel, bar one not-especially-shocking twist, devolves to the same hotel rooms, drugs and hangers-on narrative one can find in any rock or pop memoir. One suspects Mitchell had nowhere else to go.

One also wonders whence he derived where the novel came from. Anderson’s origins are far from unique (mine shares many of the same attributes, albeit with the added frisson of a low-level civil war going on at the edge of the stage). But I wonder whether Mitchell read Anderson’s book before completing his own?

More memoirists should consider Anderson’s approach rather than speeding through their childhoods to get to the fame bits. Fame is boring and monotonous, and judging by the opinions of the occasional famous person I’ve met, somewhat of a trap and a burden. We are made by our youth and it is there where we may be found.

Thanks to the success of this first volume, Anderson wrote a follow-up about his fame years. It gets pretty good reviews, but as with the latter portion of Mitchell’s novel, I suspect it might disappoint, so I intend to leave his story hanging, perpetually suspended on the brink of success.