Monday, 11 May 2009

Bring Out the Real Fun #2: Curse Songs of Great Beauty

(In which our hero continues to have a worryingly personal relationship with a comic book about music and magic)

Let's call it a review. This blog post is a review of "Phonogram: The Singles Club" Issue 2, which is entitled "Wine and Bed and More and Again". It is written by Kieron "Amazin" Gillen with art by Jamie "Awesome" McKelvie and colouring by Matthew "Brilliant" Wilson. If you recall, the first issue was about dancing. This one's about memory. It's about one pretty indie boy's fight with a pop song which throws him, against his will, into the memory of a dead relationship. There, now, go read it. Spoilers follow, see.

On account of how Phonogram is my favourite comic book series ever (note: Scott Pilgrim comes so close that arguing the point between the two is stupid. They're both the best thing ever, at the same time. It's a qauntum-awesome thing), I got up early on Thursday (the 30th) to go find me a copy in the wastelands of Birmingham. My usual friendly independent comics place didn't have it so I ended up in Forbidden Planet (EVERYBODY MAKE A DISSAPROVING NOISE RIGHT NOW. THANK YOU) and then went to read it in Starbucks (EVERYBODY MAKE A etc. etc. I had a light mocha frappacino thing, it was "well good") with a pre-prepared mp3 player playlist of Sad Danceable Pop, because I sort of knew what I was getting into here. Sort of.

By the time I finished reading, the cute indie couples who had been sat outside the window directly in front of me had all dissapeared. I think I may actually have immediatley reread it. I don't know. More so than the first issue, "Wine and Bed and More..." will emotionally beat the shit out of you if you love music. As is right and just. It centers on the idea of "curse songs" which shouldn't need explaining. Either you're already going "Ah, yeah" or after reading it you'd go "Well OF COURSE" or you're thinking "That's silly, it's just pop music" and if you're the third type of person you can fuck right off. Our heros cursed song in question is the CSS track which the title quotes, "Let's Make Love and Listen to Death from Above" which, unfortunatley for dear Marc, is A Hit. A sizeable one, borderline inavoidable in indie clubs which is of course where the action takes place. There are three different levels of story for most of the issue - The Present (the timeframe of the previous issue, Christmas Eve), Marc's Head (featuring a mental spectre of The Girl who joins him on his journey) and The Past (where Marc is forced by The Song). Present Marc hears the song and in Marc's Head, Head Marc and Head Girl (she's nameless) venture into The Past. It's a bit like a really depressing MST3K episode except not that depressing because The Girl is really funny ("You are Emperor of Whine. Are you MCR fan now? Tell me Marc, what was your favourite time you ever cry?" seems the most qoutable line, other than a callback joke to the first series. I fuckin' love intertextuality)

Anyay [We should perhaps note that I came back to this review over a week later to write this second bit] it's a great, great issue and what makes it even better is if you then reread the first issue there is one page of it that will now have an emotional impact a good five times greater than it did the first time. We also get some hints at elements of the situation we still don't know about. Next issue is, I think, The Emily Aster One. I'm quite excited about this.

It also got me thinking about my curse songs - Oh if I must: Songs that you pretty much cannot hear without being forced into some painful memory. I was discussing this idea with a friend recently and she named a few of hers which she just cannot listen to. I put forward one of my own, or at least, I thought I had. In retrospect, I was lying, because I actually CAN hear Chicago by Sufjan Stevens without thinking about the time I listened to it for two hours on repeat after a uniquely unpleasant break up. Sometimes I recall that, sometimes I don't and just love the hell out of the song. I do, however, have a curse band. Well. No, I heard their most recent single a few weeks back and it didn't do anything to me but everything they released up to a certain point is Cursed and I'm not telling you any more than that because, as Gillen says when discussing his own in the backmatter of the comic - "That would give you power over me. That would be bad."

Luckily for me I rarely encounter them in public, but did recently have the misfortune to hear one of the Most Definitely Cursed songs in a pub. I don't think my companions noticed me wincing for 3 minutes. I'm just glad none of mine are indie dance club staples.

(God, why did this take so long? By this point said comic has probably sold out in your local emporium of sequential art narratives, but if not go and buy it already. Do feel free to discuss your own Curse Song experiences in the comments, it seems they stop working after a certain length of time so maybe one day (a few series of Phonogram down the line) we can come back to mine)

[Oh and the title is a reference to a really good Clem Snide song. Out.]


winton616 said...

wait isn't yr title a reference to s,p&s by JoFo?

Miles said...

Ah, "Bring Out the Real Fun" is indeed (on account of how it's kind of a sequel to my piece on the first issue of this series of Phonogram which ended up, for me, being heaviyl linked to SP&S) but Curse of Great Beauty is a Clem Snide number.

Glad we cleared THAT up.

Geo said...

I don't know if you read me anymore
I have been forced to go private
drop me a line if you would like to be in