Hey, more comics! Less Nazis though. Or mice.
The first series of Phonogram was my favourite comic of 2006 for all sorts of reasons, but mainly because the whole damn book captured all the reasons pop music owns my soul. The whole use of Britpop was just a surface bonus, the big ribbon on the best present you’ve ever had. I’ve been looking forward to the second series from the nanosecond I finished Issue 6 of the first series.
First impressions are that, as all good series do, it’s developed. It’s gotten more vibrant, more pop than ever. Instead of the album cover pastiches of the first series, the covers here are modelled on club flyers. It’s a shameless attempt to be eyecatching, as is the largely pink cover. And inside – my God, they’ve gone colour! And they don’t waste it, the whole nightclub concept wouldn’t be half as effective without Matthew Wilson’s sympathetic colouring capturing the colours and atmosphere. It’s tough to review the main strip as it’s a portmanteau plot, a series of short stories which’ll build up to tell a story. Gillen’s story feels like it could’ve been told in the British teen girl magazines of the 70s and 80s, featuring as it does much dancing and unrequited love for a good looking fashionable young lad. He’s smart enough to give the story enough flavour to avoid that though, there a satisfying happy-ish ending and the musical references are as well chosen as ever – Laura Heaven, who seemingly exists just to quote lyrics from the sadly late Long Blondes is a favourite. And for we music fans who’ll spot the lyrical and visual references it’s a sharply observed contrast of the ethos and attitudes of the Long Blondes and one of the other bands who made 2006 a joy, the Pipettes. It’s not essential to know but it does give an extra appreciation of the story. Perhaps the story’s a little straightforward but there’s enough off unexplained key hints to suggest we’ll be able to view it in a different perspective later on.
Backup strips are well chosen, effectively contrasting and complementing each other. Visually and thematically, She Who Bleeds For Your Entertainment is reminiscent of Sandman, art and story combining for a creeping claustrophobic intensity that makes it genuinely unsettling. On the other hand Murder On The Dancefloor is an appealingly goofy throwaway joke with a decent punchline. Of course, there’s also McKelvie’s splendidly opinionated ‘sleevenotes’, playlist and essay material which were an essential part of Phonogram’s charm last time.
Pull Shapes then is like the perfect first single from the second album – it’s still got enough familiar elements hanging around to remind you what you loved about the band in the first place, but it’s changed enough to give you enough new thrills to replace the sensation of hearing something that blew your mind first time out. Oh, and they’ve got a load of irresistible hooks and the effortless cool to make the most of their greatness. In short, it rocks like a bastard. Again