So that’s it. Phonogram’s over.
I’ve not written about it before, because I had no idea how to. I could lie and say that just because I’ve not written about comics before, writing about the one that forces me to become involved with it the most would be a near impossible task. That’s not it at all; if you care about something, writing about it shouldn’t be hard. You just put thought to page and hey presto, you’ve got words. Problem is that, as with the best of music, figuring out exactly why I love Phonogram so much is beyond elusive. It’s something there to pull on me, and draw relations between myself and some auditory magicians in some Bristol club. They may be part of a world I know nothing about, each of them coming from a social group that’s so utterly removed from mine, but we share things. In a world where music is so diverse, the things it makes us feel couldn’t be more universally shared.
I think, of all of the second series of Phonogram, the one that was the most instantly accessible was ‘Wine Then Bed Then More Then Again’, which dealt with the concept of the ‘hate song’, as in the one that dredges up memories that you’d rather not experience again. But it’s a broader concept than that; music is so inextricably tied to my own memories, from the mundane activity of browsing the internet or making some toast, to some of the most vivid and exciting experiences of my life. I’ve got albums that also make me think of a particular book. I listen to music as a transience; I rarely stick with a band for more than a few weeks, at least to the level that I listen to them, and so I can quite easily tie a time to a song, or a particular sound. Hearing them again takes me back there.
I guess what I’m trying to get at is that, without even trying, Phonogram gets my relationship with music. And I don’t think that’s a coincidence. The fact that there, on the page, in the panels, is the way that I deal with music, means that I’m not unique. Sure, my tastes might share a different collection of bands and musicians to any other person’s, but the way I deal with them is the same, or very similar, to most people’s. And I think that’s something incredible. The second series of Phonogram has dealt mainly with the concept of perspective; portraying the same events in seven different ways, but the irony is that the thing it’s most make me realise is how similar people are. It’s all summed up in the first page of ‘Wolf Like Me’, that closes the series. Kohl tells Kid-With-Knife that Phonomancy is ‘When you can feel [the music] filling ever single cell in your body …just ride it as long as you can.’ The beauty of it, and the series, is KWK’s response.
‘And I’m just laughing, you know? That? That’s magic? Hell…everybody does that‘
That all this is followed by the most glorious, ridiculous, and hilarious romp through the streets of Bristol before getting the club just encapsulates it. Throughout the first series of Phonogram, KWK has been seen as the comic relief, this somewhat lesser being because he doesn’t know the mysteries of the music, and how it’s all so much bigger than he is. He just enjoys it. Which just isn’t the same, y’know? You can’t just enjoy the music, you’ve got to live it.
Except, really, that’s bollocks. ‘Wolf Like Me’ is Phonogram laughing at itself, with itself. It’s showing the ridiculous pretension of trying to say that only a chosen few actually understand music, that they’re the only ones who really get it. It’s showing how preposterous that is, and loving the fact that it can. It doesn’t matter, because it does it so brilliantly, and so charmingly, that you can’t help but love it. Throughout the first series of Phonogram, you want to empathise most with Kohl, but really, the whole way through, it’s KWK that is the one who you piggy-back on. He’s the outsider, looking in on this world of music-as-magic, and so he’s the one you get to relate with. And this is him, at the end of Phonogram, finally getting it. He’s music-as-magic too, and that means we’ve made that leap as well. Forget about Aster, or Kohl, or Seth Bingo and Silent Girl, or any of the others. This is our moment, right here.
I’ve got a Phonogram print on my wall. It’s this:
Ignoring the fact that it’s a glorious piece of art, showing off just how good McKelvie is, this is the image that most sums up Phonogram for me. I’m going to try and explain why, but I think the image does it far better than I could ever hope to. Basically, that’s Phonogram because it’s got everything it needs right there. Dancing, music, smiles, pouts, and the big old leering face of Kohl on the side. Despite how much I wanted it to happen, I think it’s the right choice that we never got a Kohl single this series. His story has already been told, and this is about telling a new story seven times. But I’m getting side tracked.
So yeah, Phonogram. Fundamentally, it’s brave. I think that’s the characteristic we need to be taking away from this. Gillen McKelvie have attempted to throw out a comic about the indie music scene in Bristol, to an audience primarily interested in spandex and saving the world. Of course, that’s being the worst kind of derivative, but it works to serve my point. It works because the art is beautiful, and the writing quite often sublime, and because it taps into the thoughts we all have. I guess, no matter how worrying it is, we should all be effusively grateful that Kieron’s mind works somewhat similar to our own.
And that’s Phonogram. Or at least, that’s Phonogram to me. You should read it.