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King Impulse 'Reviews' Phonogram: The Singles Club #6

Written by Kieran on Saturday, December 12 2009 and posted in Reviews
Phonogram: The Singles Club #6King Impulse makes his front page debut with a 'review' of Image's Phonogram: The Singles Club #6 phonogram_2.6_2.gif

So yeah, I've discovered how to publish to the front page, well, I hope I have, this being my first go and all, I could muck this up spectacularly. Anyway, what better way to mark my debut here than with a review of the recently released Phonogram: The Singles Club #6 by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie?

How do these reviews usually start? Let's go with context shall we? Phonogram is a series of miniseries' about the concept that music is magic. You know like in to world, there's always people that seem to just get music a lot more than others? People that have a deep love and passion, people that have encyclopaedic knowledge and engage in debates about anything and everything music related? In this world, these people are called Phonomancers, and they can manipulate the music like, well, like magic. That ranges from a nineteen year old girl using her power to get her name on a guest list, to someone using whistling to implant a tune in someone's head like a curse (and one one occasion, reviewing a band so hard, the drummer's legs fall off)

It's so much more than that though. Phonogram is a comic that makes you feel, or it makes me feel anyway. Music has always been my #1 passion in life, I can't play a note but I have a deep, deep appreciation for it and almost carnivorous hunger to devour as much new (to me) music as possible. That's one of Phonogram's great qualities as well, without this comic, I wouldn't be a massive fan of Kenickie, or Robyn, The Knife, or Camera Obscura, and The Holy Bible wouldn't be my favourite album of all time.

The Singles Club is the second miniseries, and the first in colour, where the team are ably aided by Matthew Wilson who brings a real life and energy to McKelvie's excellent art, which we'll get to later. It concerns a single club night, Never on a Sunday, in Bristol, that has three rules

1) No boy singers
2) You must dance
3) No magic

Each issue focuses on one person in this particular club, on this particular night (Dec 23, 2006) and throughout the miniseries we see the same events from different perspectives and gain new insights to scenes we've already seen a few issues back. It takes a talented team to pull off this non-linear storytelling, but Gillen and McKelvie pull it off, mostly due to their OCD-like attention to detail (Gillen wrote up a setlist for the imaginary clubnight to make sure the right songs were being referenced in the right scenes, and McKelvie has a wall where all the panels are cut up and repasted into chronological order, so he can see what poses he drew people in and what clothes they were wearing).

This was supposed to be a review right? Let's get back to that, shall we? I'll probably taking the issue bit by bit, so please don't complain to me afterwards that this was less a review than a listing of what happened, because this is your fair warning of how I review. The Singles Club #6 centres on Lloyd, or Mr. Logos as he'd demand you call him. A peripheral character from other stories, but then again, all of the leads have been peripheral in the other stories. In the preceding five issues, Lloyd cam across as self-important, but earnest, and most importantly of all, way too serious. We catch up with him here at the end of the night, 2:53am, just as he gets home after, let's say, not the best night out he's had.


Lloyd's angry that his Master Plan hasn't been as well received as he'd like, so he storms up to his room and does the only thing he knows to do to get it out of his system, puts on some Dexy's and starts writing. It's interesting to see Lloyd's preperation for writing, as it's one of the few times magic is explicitly shown in Phonogram. Most of the time it's hinted at with a nod, a hand wave, someone's eyes changing colour, but here, we see Lloyd sit down with his typewriter and some sort of magic cards, and get to work. Gillen never explains how the magic works, because he doesn't need to. Music as magic is an instinctive feeling that doesn't need explaining. It's something that everyone can understand to some level, and it shows Gillen's strength as a writer that he holds these cards back from us.

Here, the comic takes an interesting turn. Many pages from here on are actual pages from the fanzine (or 'Grimoire') that Lloyd is in the process of writing. In my favourite scene in the comic, Lloyd reaches up and out of the panel, to grab the one above him and place it into his 'zine. Gillen McKelvie understands how comics work and that's what makes it easy for them to break from tradition in such interesting ways. Few people can pull of such trickery and tomfoolery with panel boundaries, Frank Quitely is the first person to spring to mind, so that puts McKelvie in very esteemed company.

Lloyd bears himself within his 'zine and through people's reactions to his Master Plan, he realises he might be going about things the wrong way. He recalls his conversation with David Kohl, a hero to Lloyd, and indeed, hero of the first volume of Phonogram (Rue Britannia) where Kohl gives him life changing advice. It's no big, impassioned speech, like something a Hollywood hero is told before he runs into the third act to save the day, no, Kohl speaks to Lloyd in the way that will help best, he simply recommends a band to him. It's great to see another side to Kohl, a side that maybe sees some of himself in the young Mr. Logos (Gillen has said that both characters are autobiographical to a degree) so he does away with the cocksure, rogue-ish attitude of the first volume and shows the sincere music fan we knew was in there.

4.gifKohl's advice spurs Lloyd on to discovering a new love, and a new realisation. That music should fun and enjoyed, when you start getting too serious and stressing over the fine little details, you miss the big, obvious joy of it all. His line 'You have to laugh' isn't just about the lyric, it's about music in general, and signals a significant change in the young Phonomancer's life. As the issue ends, for the first time in the series, I find myself really wanting to read about what Lloyd did next.

So what was this then, why did I write this? It was barely a review really, I don't really like to give out marks out of ten, and especially for this, because you knew I was going to gush about it from the start. This was more about me expressing my love for my favourite comic. In the essay after the comic, Gillen talks about how he believes everyone should write a fanzine, as a way of getting it out there, and about how it's even easier in the blogging and microblogging world of the interwebz. Well, this is my fanzine, my ode to Phonogram, and in particular, this issue. I've said this before, to friends, to strangers and even to Gillen and McKelvie themselves. Phonogram is a comic that changed my life and continues to touch me and really get to me, deep down in my gut, and you know what that feeling is? That pure love for art, be it music, films, comics, whatever?


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