Trading Up: Phonogram: Singles Club

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Phonogram: The Singles Club was...hard for me. But just at first. I read the trade with the music it had in place, thinking the message of MUSIC AS MAGIC was referring to that special blend that comic baristas Kieron Gillen and Jaime McKelvie had mixed behind their exclusive bar. The message then was opaque to me due to the one fact that I had never listed to either Johnny Boy or Pipettes, let alone two-thirds of the track list. So, while Gillen and McKelvie were celebrating and dancing and burning vinyls at the altar of Blondie, I was more than likely listening to Bob Marley, CCR, or Band of Horses. You see the difference. We both like to drink, just different beverages.

But each issue is strong. Drawn and written with the beautiful solipsistic mindset that music is the Alpha and the Omega, conducted through the only medium that can handle it this side of airwaves--comics. There is really no other way in which to describe these issues than having an obsessive love for music, and that’s absolutely fine by me.

Perhaps the strongest is “Wine and Bed and More Again,” followed by “Wolf Like Me.” In “Wine and Bed,” we’re reminded of heartaches, dance-aches, and sex-aches, and how we’ll never have one without the music that goes along with it. You know what I mean. There’s that ONE SONG we all have that we associate the ups, the downs, and in-betweens with. Music is magic after all—shamanic, psychedelic—it’s for everyone, and at the same time it’s only for you. So, when we peep into Mark’s sorrow, there’s a truthfulness that haunts our memories: that first time you’re dancing with someone beyond the dance floor, and how ultimately, that dance ends. “Wolf Like Me” is all about the music never ending—that rush, that beautiful rush that carries one from the street to the club to the bed. And you’re amazed you survived the night.

“Pull Shapes” was the toughest for me to sympathize with. You see, I’ve known people—dated and ultimately been adverse to, rather—like Penny in “Pull Shapes.” But what helped me get over the fact that I was being ridiculous in my initial assessment of the issue, was the appreciation of the fact that she was our first guide into the Singles Club. She was, whether she knows it or not, our phonographic sherpa into this lovely world. Talking to us, dancing for us, all for us.

Back to the tracklist: the only music I had in common with the creators was Blondie, Ike & Tina, and TV on the Radio. Never listened to Robyn, never heard a peep from The Long Blondes, and only liked a few of the Arctic Monkeys (yeah, yeah, I know they weren’t played, but they’re mentioned in issue one). So, I did what any music/comic-lover-hybrid does--I downloaded the track list that Seth Bingo and Silent Girl played at the club, and listened to it.

And listened to it.

And listened to it again.

And then I re-read the trade.

There was flash of appreciation. Sure, it’s a totally different scene that what I’m used to, but that doesn’t mean I can’t admire that scene, that lifestyle. This trade was more than just a good read, it was a gateway of sorts into something familiar, yet simultaneously alien. It was charming. It goes beyond the strong devotion of both creators to their craft, beyond the big sorrows and small triumphs of the characters, and it stays with you. Apropos, my advice to you when reading this is the same advice David Kohl gives Kid-With-Knife in the last issue.

“Let it sweep over you. Breathe it in. Let it posses you. And when you can feel it filling every single cell in your body, just ride it as long as you can.”

Phonogram: The Singles Club is available from Image Comics priced $14.99.

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