I just finished reading Phonogram: The Singles Club and feel compelled to take down my thoughts.
The premise of Phonogram is that there are Phonomancers who can perform magic that is tied to music in some way. That listening to the right music, or dancing can turn ordinary people into fucking sorcerers and shit.
The first series, Phonogram: Rue Britannia, was largely about Britpop. Growing up as a sheltered Midwesterner who primarily got their music information from MTV (I feel great shame about this, so please understand my embarrassment revealing this), I had heard of Blur and Oasis but knew nothing about Britpop.
So when I read Rue Britannia most of the music references went over my head. I was fine with that, I could understand the love that Gillen and McKelvie (or maybe mostly Gillen?) had for this music, it sizzled off the page in the art and dialogue. And it gave me a fairly sizable list of homework listening to do which was a plus as well.
Fast forward a few years and the band gets back together to release Phonogram: The Singles Club. This was after I had heard about the original series so I knew it was going on but for whatever reason I never followed it. I bought the trade collection in 2010 but it sat on my shelf until today. I am not sure what is wrong with me.
There are a number of differences between the first series and the second, but the biggest for me is that the music they discuss and worship in The Singles Club is late 00′s indie instead of Britpop, or basically the music I know and love.
Now instead of references to Kenickie and Suede, they are talking about The Pipettes, CSS, Robyn and songs that I know by heart.
For whatever reason, ever since I really discovered music again in college (cue Knives Chau saying “I did not even know there was good music until like two months ago!”) I have never really had someone to discuss and share music with. The closest is my friend Elaine, who I would send burned DVDs full of MP3s every year, but my love of music has felt like something very personal that I have not shared. I go to concerts alone, because I have no friends who are going to go with me, and that helps emphasize the point.
So reading this book, which tells the story of a single night at a club from seven different perspectives, really has made me re-question the things I know about myself.
I have always assumed that I want to be the kind of person who would be in this story, going out to a club, dancing, going home with someone at the end of the night. But the majority of the time I was listening to CSS or Camera Obscura or Robyn has been while I was at work or at home. I still feel like I love music even though it only plays a fairly small role in my life.
And the book is a snapshot in time, taking place in December 2006, a moment I was living in. So does it say something about me that instead of finding clubs or going out I was sitting at home playing Xbox? Is that the person I am, truly, as compared to the person I think I want to be?
It might sound corny but the question really is: I love the music but is there actually magic there for me? I get the sense that I am probably not a Phonomancer (again, ignoring it is a completely fictional concept) but I want to be one someday.
Anyway, Phonogram is fucking amazing and you should totally buy it.
“She’s going to go “yeah yeah” in a minute, isn’t she? She is. I bet she is.