There’s been loads of book about the impact of punk, but not many about grunge, which was a similarly pivotal moment for a later generation. Lucy Nichol aims to address that by setting her debut novel in the days after Kurt Cobain killed himself aged only 27.
Music fanatic Emma realises Nirvana’s frontman is the latest in a line of rock stars who croaked it at that age.
The problem for Emma’s is she’s coming up to 27, and in her fragile metal state starts to fixate on whether she might not make it to 28 like the dead stars.
It doesn’t help the frustrated graduate is stuck in a dead-end job ordering sinks for a crappy Hull based caravan company which she masks with a casual coke habit. Adding to Emma’s woes her depressed dad is still mourning her mum leaving them when she was a nipper and Emma’s dog adds to her woes with a bad case of IBS.
And her male best friend Dave is facing a life altering situation just as she meets the man of her dreams. And the only thing she has to look forward to is a Senseless Things gig who have a cameo as part of a slightly tenuous plot twist.
Nichol says this is a book about mental health, which is partly true, but it’s also about the sort of deep friendships formed through music, which Louder Than War readers will know only too well. Let’s face it – who wants to be friends with people who have crap taste in music?
Emma’s best mate at work goes to the local ‘straight’ nightclub – along with the crudely drawn townie sales team wankers – where no self-respecting indie kid would be seen dead. But Nichol does explore exactly how different are these two tribes apart from what they listen to?
Anyone who saw the spectacle of the emo kids who used to congregate around Urbis in Manchester wearing their sad little uniforms, while sneering at the ‘straights’, will have sympathy with Nichol’s take on musical snobbery.
Nichol is a respected mental health campaigner so it’s no surprise most of her characters are struggling in one way or another. Her message that you don’t have to suffer alone is especially timely given the nightmare of the last year.
The recent passing of Senseless Things frontman Mark Keds ends up making The Twenty Seven Club an unintended tribute to a decent band who probably don’t quite get the success their incessant touring deserved.
Despite the tough subject matter in parts there are still plenty of laughs, but given it is self-published it probably needed more investment in an editor to smooth off some of the rough edges and streamline the plotlines.
But for those people who came of age musically in the 1990s, this is a funny, perceptive and often moving debut that will take them right back to an oft neglected decade.
The Twenty Seven Club is available via Amazon, Waterstones (online), Forum Books, Uni Reading Lists and Book Depository.
Words by Paul Clarke, you can see his author profile here.