Lovefool 10.24.11 | We Dance to the Beat

Lovefool rocks a mixtape of music, magic and heartbreak courtesy of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Phonogram.

 

 

 

I spent the entire weekend at home, doing absolutely nothing. Well, as nothing as one can do at home. A weekend at home always entails some small amount of labor of various kinds so there was some vacuuming and other nonsense like that in between screwing around on Facebook and playing Glitch and watching old X-Men cartoons. But, mostly, there wasn’t much going on. But while I’m doing nothing, there’s always music on in our house and the music is, typically, fairly diverse. At any given time, there’s death metal concept albums about Ragnarok playing upstairs in Mr. Jameson’s lair followed by Waylon Jennings and something with a British accent on the laptop sliding into Kanye West because why the hell not? Either way, music is pretty much an intrinsic part of the Jameson household, whether it’s someone playing it or someone listening to it.
 
So I was skimming my shelves for something I wanted to write about after a hard day’s listening and noticed I have a lot of comics about music. This is, of course, because I love music so it’s natural that I would enjoy things that feature music in other mediums. Rock documentaries make up a large part of our Netflix queue, we have shelves of music books and biographies and the comics shelf is no different. It’s also because there’s a lot of nerdy indie kids buying comics, too, so there’s things like Put The Book Back On The Shelf, an illustrated collection of Belle & Sebastian-inspired comics, and Red Rocket 7 for the glam rock crowd and Blue Monday for the kids who came of that certain age in the ‘90s. There are other collections and shorts and things to delight the indie soul, but those are some of my favorites. And because, ultimately, most songs are about love of some sort, there’s no shortage of affection in them.
 
But none of them will ever hold the place that Phonogram holds in my heart. Phonogram is a comic written by Kieron Gillen and drawn by Jamie McKelvie that explores the concept of music as magic and talked a lot about bands I didn’t think anyone but me and my best friend had ever heard of. There are two collections, Rue Britannia and The Singles Club, and there was a third arc being plotted that will, sadly, never see the light of day. I really enjoyed Rue Britannia, being something of a Britpop girl, but The Singles Club is forever enshrined in my heart as everything I want a book like this to be. A story arc following seven characters as they attend a club night in Bristol, The Singles Club has some of the characters that I loved (or at least liked a little, begrudgingly) in Rue Britannia and introduces a new, younger set to the Phonogram cast.
 
Teenagers, or close enough, are the exact best thing for a story like this, nerdlings. A teenager lives a life of wild mood swings. They dance on the very edge of appropriateness before deciding to hurl themselves off of it. They dance and sneak drinks and charm people and each other before telling each other off and every adventure ends in a grand revelation or a series of ever-increasing climaxes until we hit the end of the night and then it explodes into stars and a drunken stumble into a bad decision that will make a great story later. More importantly, they always do what they’re not supposed to, which is why we find Penny B, Dancing Queen and Phonomancer, using her skillset to light up a dancefloor, once on purpose and once quite by accident.
 
A Phonomancer, in the world of Phonogram, is a person who can take music and turn it into magic. As one of the characters in The Singles Club (ironically the only non-phonomancer in the set) points out, that’s what we all do with music. We turn it into magic. We conjure with it, be it a mood or a memory, and there will always be certain songs that will take us certain places. I’m not of an age where it will take me from atop my heels into a stranger’s bed anymore but, you know, I know that sometimes a good beat and a few well rum and cokes will make you do silly things.
 
Maybe that’s what I love the most about this book: it’s a mystery how the evening will shake down. Is the DJ going to get in a fight with the Phonomancer who tried to steal his girlfriend? Is the Phonomancer who tried to steal his girlfriend going to beat up her friend for dragging her to this thing and, therefore, through a dark side of her past? Is the beautiful girl everyone wants going to go home with the boy she fancies herself in love with or the dashing older man who can’t help but take a peek at her, despite the fact that he’s a bit old? Will she go home with her best friend, who half-despises her and is half in love with her? Will she end up being pulled into a silly boy’s vanity project? Who is going to love her the best and, therefore, win yon sparkly Dancing Queen?
 
Or will she, magically, figure out that she doesn’t need any of that noise, all she needs is herself and a good beat? And then, maybe, will she go home with someone who will like her because she’s pretty and dances well and has a nice smile, not because of some deep, dark ulterior reason? I’ll leave you to guess which one, but your Lovefool would be lying if she said she didn’t like a good redemption story with a dash of sharpness to it. And everyone here finds some kind of love, be it finally learning to love themselves and not waiting for someone else to do it or learning that they don’t need to fit into some ideal just because they’ve seen it done well elsewhere because they don’t need the love they’ll get for it.
 
Phonogram is about music, yes, but it’s about what we find inside it, as well, and a little about what it finds inside us. And, you know, with that many love songs out there, it’s hard to avoid finding a little of that in any given album. Since no album is without a sad song about heartbreak, there’s a little bit of that thrown in the mix, too. The Singles Club is like a mixtape that you find that was made by your really cool friend at the end of that one summer where you danced to that one song (side two, track four) that no one remembers but you two loved it. And you listen to it and remember that one time that you ended up outside smoking a cigarette and kissing a boy you kind of knew from around while the beat thumped through the doors and you didn’t get his number but, you know what? You’ll always have that song. | Erin Jameson
 
To learn more about Phonogram and read the entire first issues of Rue Britannia and The Singles Club for free, visit PhonogramComic.com.

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