Stop Listening to the Same Music You Listened To At 23: Phonogram by Kieron Gillen and Jaimie McKelvie

On the “About” page of this site, you’ll find a note where it says I will not, and SHOULD NOT recommend any music to you. This should have probably been hammered home by my repeated “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” references, but as a reminder, I went to a Best Buy in 2003 and purchased this album on the day is was released:

MachoManRandySavageWait, please don’t go. Don’t take that to mean I have NO credibility.

Many people can communicate through shared love of music. In Phonogram by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, there are people called Phonomancers that can utilize music for magic. The way I have pitched it to some friends in person so far has been “It’s like if talking like Patrick Bateman gave you musical power.” It’s a pretty glib way to summarize the series, though it is a somewhat accurate description of how the first volume’s protagonist, David Kohl, starts out.

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David’s identity and magical power is rooted in the genre of Britpop and in the goddess Britannia. There are those who would resurrect and pervert the genre for their own gain, and David is faced with the dilemma of who he is being rewritten by these people, or redefining himself on his own terms.

It’s a scary proposition. I can’t say that I know a lot about the music referenced in Phonogram, but the themes and emotion ring true. I’ve been kind of working to redefine myself through comic books in the past year. A big part of that was getting rid of most of my collection. I thought that would be a bigger deal to me, but it wasn’t. It didn’t bring me down that much, and honestly, it wasn’t me anymore.

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That’s where David winds up. He figures out who he is right now and doesn’t continue to draw power from who he was. That’s the first volume, Rue Britannia. I liked it a bunch. But then I read volume 2, The Singles Club…and I fucking loved it. David pops up again, but it’s mainly 7 intersecting stories about 7 different Phonomancers and how they make magic through music. They’re all at different stages of their lives, but each realizes something important about themselves within the course of an issue. In jumping around to the different characters, and with the injection of color, Gillen and McKelvie’s comic book feels even more alive. Rue Britannia tells you about music, but The Singles Club IS music. If I can, I’ll try and work a little of this magic by trying to reiterate what this comic made me feel, and what comic books make me feel while we tour through some of these beautiful panels.

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When I write about a comic, when I tell you about a comic…I’m trying to tell you about me. I’m not trying to prove that I’m smart. I’m not trying to impress you. I’m doing it for me and I’m trying to say a few things.

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I love comic books. I think they’re as important as books and films and music and comedy. They’re a way to tell a story, to share, to communicate.

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I try not to just blanketly recommend things. Yeah, I write this blog, but I try to frame things with “If you like this, then read BLAH!” I’m trying to say I know you (if I know you personally and have recommended something) or if you’re an anonymous reader of this site, well, then I’m trying to relate to someone like myself that would enjoy the work about which I’m writing.

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Phonogram worked this kind of magic on me. It spoke to me even though I didn’t fully grasp the references. I connected with Gillen and McKelvie’s work emotionally. It made me feel like this. I felt this page leaping off of my tablet screen, saying “Yes. This is true.”

Screen Shot 2013-01-14 at 10.18.40 PMTwo people connect through art. Through music. Through dance. You don’t have to understand. There’s nothing to get. There’s just some things that we connect with each other on. We define ourselves and each other through these connections, and it’s magic.


Published by pauldekams

Paul DeKams is a socially awkward malcontent working in marketing in New York City. So, yeah, he’s a writer. He's written a few independent film projects, written a blog about comics, and even has an embarrassing Live Journal you can find if you try really hard.

2 thoughts on “Stop Listening to the Same Music You Listened To At 23: Phonogram by Kieron Gillen and Jaimie McKelvie

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