July 1st, 2008
In 2005, when I was 29, I underwent a second teenhood, and my flat at the time was more like a non-stop party than anything resembling a home. Seriously. You couldn’t get any sleep on a Friday night, and when you’re expected to go to work at 10 o clock the next day, that’s no fun at all. Having said that, I really enjoyed rolling in four hours afterwards and joining in with the drug-bleached bedlam. There’s no way, just three short years later, I could keep up with myself then, and that’s probably for the good, but it doesn’t change the fact that it was a great deal of fun while it lasted. Obviously we had very little money, and we were all boys, so the flat was always a fucking state and the decor and furnishings were sparse and basic to say the least. Inspite of this, however, I was always fairly house-proud – I just had to figure out how to spruce up the living room cum kitchen on a tight budget.
So I raided my comic book collection and 100% came to the rescue.
This flaming whirlwind of a punk-chick (tho’ admittedly twas the B&W version) danced frenziedly above the bachanalian antics taking place in the lounge for a good year and half before I cleaned up my act and was finally edged out the flat and into my girlfiend’s by a pile of washing up a mile high and a come-down that would never end. She was more than just a cool, cheap, 6ft by 4 blow up adorning the beer stained walls of our ultimate bachelor pad, she was a talisman, a good luck charm, a sigil holding the flaming nights and days together. She was as much a part of what I might now loosely term ‘my social group’ as any of the freaks and weirdos sprawled out on my floor. She was the soundtrack on the stereo condensed into the four walls of an exploded comic panel.
She was ROCK!
And it’s not as though she’s alone. There’s a grand tradition of comicbook characters gazing down on bachanlia, from the bereft lovers of Roy Lichtenstein, their tears pooling on the floors of the galleries that comprised the 60s New York art scene, to the reality defying creations of Kirby and Steranko bellowing some terrible warning concerning a threat from beyond out of the flyers and rave posters of the same period right through to the second Summer of Love in 1989. And speaking of flyer art – mid 90s Hoxton bars and clubs would have looked completely different if it wasn’t for Jamie Hewlett. And then came Gorrilaz… Comics, cocaine, cigarettes and alcohol have long been bedfellows, so it’s strange that so few comics writers incorporate music into their creations.
Why is this? To begin with, comics are a silent medium, but I would go even further. I’m fairly certain that the fact that comic books fans have such a weird, touchy relationship with notions of *cool* has a lot to do with it too. And music is always bound up with fashion. There’s always an element of showing off – of demonstrating one’s credentials – in comic books revolving around tunes. There’s the feeling that the author might be trying to push his or her idea of what we should be listening to on us – that they’re setting themselves up as arbiters of taste – and some comic fans, who’ve spent a great deal of time being pushed around by said arbiters, naturally find themselves quite hostile to this idea. That said, I think there might be a geographical and temporal component to this too. Afterall, a great many of us grew up with books like 2000AD and Deadline which revelled in their hipness. In the late 80s and early 90s Zenith referenced everything from Morrisey to George Michael to acid house, and you could practically hear the Rolling Stones blasting out of Tank Girl’s tank. So perhaps british fandom’s cooler with it. We expect Morrison to blather on about how much he likes crap like Goldfrapp – it comes with the territory – but I think Americans who were raised on a frugal diet of Marvel and DC may have a different attitude. In fact I suspect some of them will be tuning out around about now….
Regardless of fandom, there’s been a smattering of notable musicky comics put out in the zeroes – Phonogram, everything by Paul Pope, one I KNOW I’m forgetting, Cameron Stewart and Ray Fawke’s soon to be released Apocalipsticks and of course Dave Lapham’s excellent Young Liars. Yeah, yeah, I’m biased from the get go – I fucking love the book – but nevertheless I’m going to attempt a fair and balanced assessment of Lapham’s comicbook hit list. Before I do, though, I just want to quickly nod to the difference between Lapham and Matt Fraction’s approach (for more on Matt’s take, see Collected Irritant Soundtracks 1): Lapham understands that two tunes just about covers the time it takes to read a comic book – it’s more realistic. By pairing down the book’s aural dimension in this way, Lapham draws more attention to the music than Fraction. Because the songs can be slotted into the reader’s reading span, they really signpost themselves as a soundtrack – and ‘Why these warblings? Why not others?’ becomes the question. The answer must be that these tunes are thematically important – that they fill out the characters and the stories somehow. That they contain information. A kind of sonic colouring in. The soundtrack informs and is informed by the comic’s content in a far more enveloping and saturating way than in Fraction’s Iron Fist story. It’s less gimmicky and more a key, though optional, component of the reading experience. I get the feeling Lapham really wants us to stick these songs on the stereo as we thumb our way through the character’s lives. Anyway, hopefully we’ll discover some interesting shit going on in the feedback. That or some weird satanic commands.
Throughout Stray Bullets‘ run, Dave was ever-present at the controls of the letter column cultivating for himself a hard-arsed, ‘fuck you weird fanboy!’, dare I say it, punk rock persona (does anyone remember that amazing post about fighting zoot suiters and Dave’s response – perhaps the most awesome thing to happen to a letters page since Charles J Sperling?) and his tastes for grimy nightclubs, druggy parties, low level criminality and all things rawk has always been evident in his work, but it’s never quite come together the way it has in Young Liars. For those fules amongst you who haven’t picked it up yet (inspite of fairly ringing endorsements from the supreme arbiters of taste over on this here website), Young Liars tells the story of six of the titular bullshitters – Sadie (a girl with a bullet in her brain and absolutely no self control or inner monologue), Danny (her obsessive, angsty ‘boyfriend’, protector and keeper) Runco (a rich kid slumming it), Donnie (a *yawn* drug addicted tranny with a heart of gold), Annie X (an, again with the *YAWN*, eating-disorder ravished, washed up model) and Cee Cee (a groupie) – and what happens to them when Sadie escapes with Danny from the repressive, sexually deviant, ultra-violent clutches of her maniac, billionaire, chain-store owning Father’s compound and out into the New York party/clubbing scene, with daddy’s weird and evil minions, the Pinkertons, hot on their trail. We’re only four issues in, so that’ll have to do as an overview for the time being, but obviously we’ll be progressing through each of the issues in this here piece, so it’ll probably accrete a little more detail along the way….
I yawned a little there, didn’t I? Well perhaps I shouldn’t have. Lapham’s nothing if not a master of characterisation and I’m sure each of the protagonists will be fully fleshed out before we get to the end. Those of them that survive that is. And anyway, Dave wants a bunch of easily accessible characters to get us into the book. These guys are readymade ciphers/bridges for the world he wants to immerse us in – we can worry about little details like depth later. TBH he’s already proven himself in this area by subverting the idea of the sexy, sassy, wank fantasy heroine by making her brain damaged. Sadie’s one part superhero, but, as I’m sure we’ll see later, two parts victim, and Danny’s obsession with her mirrors the ugly fanboy who gets off on the supposed emancipated womanhood of Tank Girl etc, but secretly thrills at the idea of owning them. So, yeah, Lapham’s already muddying the surfaces. Shut up critics. But I’m getting distracted again. That’s not what I wanted to talk about.
I wanted to talk about how their little gang is really a band.
I mean, with a bunch of cardboard cutout, scenester archetypes like this, what else could they be? Sadie’s the frontman with her insane ‘tude and Joplin styled warblings, Annie X the stick-like keyboard player, Runco’s the bassist, Donnie’s on drums and Danny’s the lead guitarist/manager. Oh and Cee Cee’s still a groupie. Sure, they don’t actually play anything – they’re not literally a band – but their little unit, with its twisty relationships, fucked-up internal politics and powerplays, over the top histrionics, massive egos and drugs, is pure Spinal Tap. And their stories are their songs. After superteams, the band is an obvious point of focus for comic writers – you’ve a ready-made reason for a group of people to hang together and share adventures, a springboard for all kinds of mayhem, and in the end isn’t a band just the JLA for mature readers? Bands enjoy a kind of real world heroic status, don’t they? They’re the closest we can imagine getting in our lifetimes to the realm of myth, etc., they’ve got the super abilities too: sex appeal, charisma, the power to invade and control the minds and pants of a million screaming fans. Yep, it makes perfect sense that Lapham’s ploughing this furrow for a little bit o’ dollar at the mo’, even if the band thing’s an implicit, as opposed to explicit, thematic ingredient.
So what are they playing on the stereo? What’s throbbing away behind their lives?
Well if you were to go by the information on the cover of issue 1, with Sadie, fist aloft, demanding ‘Are you ready for this?’, you might assume it’s those early 90s chart topping, non-ravesters 2 Unlimited (DON’T! CLICK! THE! LINK!), but a quick flick of the page reveals the issue’s real theme songs…
This is, for the snarling Lapham, something of a strange choice for an opener. Don’t get me wrong, I love 80s Bowie – whatever anyone else thinks, I’m firmly down with Let’s Dance, China Girl, Blue Jean, The Magic Dance et al (Personally I think from early to midway through the 80s Bowie manages to sucessfully pre-empt and channel the whole icy-modern(love)ist but fierily earnest tone that dominated most of the decade – his transformation from heroin addled Thin White Duke to alien yuppie is one of his most interesting permutations), but does Lapham really dig on this shit? Well obviously he does! I’m not suggesting he has to love every song that resounds out of Young Liars, but I’d find it pretty mysterious if he wasn’t down with the opening track. And it makes sense too, not just because Sadie’s all about the dancing, but because Lapham’s comics always seem to locate themselves, as the Beast has already pointed out, in some weird temporal hinterland, ostensibly positioning themselves within a fixed time-zone, but nevertheless always reeking of various different decades. It might have something to do with the way Stray Bullets bounced around in time, but there was always the feeling that you didn’t quite know where you were.
Let’s Dance’s video seems to tell the story of an imaginary life bestowed upon a pair of poor, young aboriginal lovers by a pair of red shoes. Well the red shoes aren’t in evidence in the comic book, but the fantasy love affair between Sadie and Danny very much is. It is an affair, like that of the couple in the video, that must eventually reveal itself as a crock of shit. There are powerful forces of oppression ranged against them, forcing them not to get ideas above their station, and, anyway, Danny’s just taking advantage of a mentally ill young woman, and the red shoes that in Hans Christian Andersen’s story keep the young heroine dancing, dancing, dancing forever are poisonous and will eventually kill her, just as the bullet lodged in Sadie’s skull is pressing on her fun-centres now but will ultimately work its way through her spinal cabling. It’s a great tune, but there’s something stark and cold at the heart of it, and in that it serves as not just a guhroovy initial aural foray, but it also articulates the doom awaiting our heroes just over the horizon.
Fuck knows if Lapham’s seen the video or if he intends this level of analysis, but there are certain resonances that seem to work.
It’s nice to see Dave making some concessions to modernity. For those of you that missed it, Atlas by Battles was one of last years crossover anthems. The relentless, geometrically progressing stomp of its beat, its cyclicality, means it has more in common with a techno record than rock ‘n’ roll, but rock it is – math rock. That Lapham’s introducing his book with this stomper causes one to sigh with relief – phew! so many comic writers come off as grizzled old rockers with Stooges records endlessly repeating on the stereo, that it comes as a pleasant surprise when one of them turns out to actually like new music. It’s slightly conspicuously *new* however. I think Dave’s quite self-conciously beaming out the message that he’s still listening, although it was a very popular tune, really, and it doesn’t display any real underground or indie cred. But points for trying, Dave. It does make you want to dance.
And that’s the point really, isn’t it? I suppose that the first issue is as close to untroubled good times as our ragtag gang are likely to get for some time. It sums up the exuberant, mindless – wordless – hedonism of the dancefloor, the sheer excitement and breakneck pace of the comic (Liars really moooves – it’s like one big chase scene: from small town america, to the big city, to the hospital, to the cruise ship and ultimately to Spain in ish 5, not to mention the fact that, just like in Lapham’s other work, we’re still bouncing around in time every other panel…) and limitless freedom of Sadie’s deranged head. It’s this stuff without the danger, cautionary warnings and the moral caveats, and I think that’s as important a statement to make about the world the players move in as all the other stuff – it’s sometimes a great deal of fun. It’s a nod to the pure, unadulterated, consequence free high times before the necessary comedown.
Wait a minute! Did I say ‘consequence free’? Hmmm. Maybe there’s another way of looking at Atlas and its marching beat. It does put me in mind of soldiers marching to war, and Young Liars does, y’know, contain an awful lot of fighting. By the time we get to the end of the first issue, the police have shown up at the nightclub and a bar-room brawl ensues…. After that a gang of violent punks turn up to flatten Sadie for slicing up one of their own…. And then it’s the Pinkertons turn…
So moving onto issue 2.
Scene shift, and suddenly it’s Austin Texas two years before the events that introduced the book. Issue 2 tells the tale of how Danny and Sadie first met, how he ‘rescued’ her from a lascivious local gangbanger and how, when her father caught wind of the fact that she’d snuck out of the compound to go to a gig, he saw to it that the Pinkertons burnt the venue down with everyone inside and killed Danny’s Mother, best friend and disabled brother as a reprisal for showing his little girl a good time. Grim stuff.
And there’s a couple of fairly tunes playing in the background. First of all: Suicide and Frankie Teardrop.
I admit it, I think Suicide are the tits. Frankie Teardrop’s no Ghost Rider or Cheree, but it’s damn good all the same. And damn miserable. Miserable, portentous and threatening. Suicide inhabit a weird place where the spirit of rockabilly collides and fuses with the burgeoning electronic scene of the late 70s – where a traditional, warm, sound finds itself lost in a tangle of cavernous, echoing synth riffs and stark drum patterns and, understandably, the vocal gets somewhat paranoid and edgy as a result. Bowie’s Let’s Dance exhibits a similar tendency, but it’s the pop-lite version – Suicide really go to town. It’s quite literally music to top yourself to.
So it’s perfect for an angst ridden teenager. So far, in the space of four comics, we’ve seen Danny attempt suicide no less than 3 TIMES! Twice in reality and once in his imagination. Two of these instances, when he fantasises about drinking a bottle of bug killer because his band’s fallen apart and when he puts a gun to his head because he can’t get to the aforementioned concert, occur in issue 2. Danny may well be the narrator of much of the piece, but he’s a deeply subjective, untrustworthy one and by this point, if we hadn’t come to this conclusion already, Lapham’s keen to drive home that he’s a bit of an arsehole, full of self-loathing and deeply manipulative. ‘how would they feel if I killed myself because I didn’t get my way?’, he seems to ask. And that’s the thing about the song. It tells the story of a man who, having had his way (under very dodgy circumstances) with a young woman, is set upon by a group of thugs working for her Father, but escapes, and, later, decides to top himself. The lyrics pursue, via caption boxes, our young protagonist from panel to panel, and we’re left in no doubt that Lapham intends us to view ‘Teardrop as Danny’s theme tune. He uses every available opportunity to take advantage of Sadie (in this issue, when he carves out their friendship when she’s high and drunk and later, after she’s taken a bullet, when he sets himself up as her self-appointed guardian) and brings down the wrath of Papa Wonderwall on everyone he knows. But, hey!, Frankie Teardrop’s the subject of a pop song – he’s tragically heroic, mythic even – and I’m certain that’s the way Danny likes to view himself too. The star of his own personal drama.
Like I said: arsehole.
I’ve never spent much (read: ‘no’) time on You Will Know us by the Trail of the Dead. And now I know why. They’re not crap exactly – the tune has a nice fuzzy guitariness, a pleasing, spiralling riff and sputtering drum line – but his voice reminds me of Liam Gallagher. There’s something so generic about it – a teenager’s eye view of how a rock vocal should sound. So off I go on a quick web-trawl for their music and what do i find? Okay, the Liam-voice isn’t in evidence elsewhere, but they’re still not quite doing it for me. Hmmph. No matter how hard they try to crank it on tunes like Caterwaul, TOD never really ROCK OUT!!!111!!!23!. I just like my guitar music a little dirtier, to be honest. But I know the amerindieana soundscape of the nineties wouldn’t be the same without them, so I grudgingly tip my hat to Trail of Dead as a bit of Lapham album filler.
Even though there’s something quite annoying about them.
I can’t prise much sense out of the lyrics, either, so it’s pretty difficult to draw any conclusions with regards to their relationship with the text. All I really feel, looking at them now, is slightly irritated. Lots of waffle about
‘I fear that you would never be
Every song in the world for me…’
‘…For not seeing heaven like you would see;
Why is a song a world for me?’
Jesus. I think, in the case of Another Morning Stoner at least, the Oasis comparison gets more and more accurate by the minute. Absolute doggerel. I suppose that just about sums up Danny’s emotional landscape. You can just imagine him writing love letters to Sadie in the same vein. Frankly, though, I think the song’s content has fuck all to do with anything – it’s the titles that nail it. Another Morning Stoner speaks for itself, doesn’t it? Danny, pre-Young Liars, in a nutshell. And then there’s the name of the band! Yes indeed, you will know them by the trail of the dead.
But are we talking about the Pinkertons [who the fuck are these guys? - ed] or our star crossed couple?
Whoever it signifies, issue 2 ends with a trail of bodies a mile long.
And it stretches all the way to #3.
Oh man, Wire rule and Strange is one of their best tunes. That grinding, gravelly wash of guitar, the way his voice tilts between menacing and camp, the scary noises sidling out of the shadows at the end…. Fuck Trail of Dead, basically. Lapham needn’t provide me with a reason for this one because it’s basically just fucking skill, but Strange fits very nicely thanks.
‘There’s something strange going on tonight
There’s something going on that’s not quite right
Joey’s nervous and the lights are bright
There’s something going on that’s not quite right
There’s something going down that wasn’t here before
Keep your eyes glued to the floor
No one’s gonna save your life
Something strange going on tonight
There’s something going on that wasn’t here before
Keep your eyes glued to the floor
No one’s gonna save your life
Something strange going on tonight
There’s something strange going on tonight
There’s something going on that’s not quite right
Joey’s nervous and the lights are bright
There’s something going on that’s not quite right…’
Okay, Joey has nothing to do with anything but the song sums up the paranoid atmosphere of 3 completely. quick plot precis: the gang find themselves drop kicked from one hair-raising scuffle to another, and eventually, after escaping the club, wind up in a hospital ward where Donnie recovers after ODing. But that’s not the end of their problems. It turns out the ‘Doctor’ who shows up to check on hir is actually one of the Pinkertons [explain these guys away a bit more! -ed] and, after Danny blows his brains out, the whole lot of them wind up on a cruise ship headed for Spain and the mysterious treasure Runco’s been prattling on about since mid-way through the first ish. Understandably, because no-one up until this point has any idea about Sadie and Danny’s past, the group begins to fray at the seams as the mutual distrust hits boiling point. As readers we sympathise, because we’re almost as in the dark as the rest of them. Sure, we know Sadie’s Dad’s a weird psycho and, in many ways, she’s the ultimate shut-in. We know that Danny and Sadie have some fucked up shit they’re running away from. But that doesn’t mean we’ve really got a handle on just how DEEPLY fucked up the Pinkertons are.
Here, take a look at one.
Mr. Brownbag’s private army/detectives are the scariest comic creation since Lapham’s Roy (and if you haven’t met him yet, then GO THE FUCK OUT AND BUY SOME STRAY BULLETS!). The way they go all out with the masters of disguise schtick, their fake nose-glasses, taches and funny accents, it’s like some ghastly spy film parody – pure Peter Sellers and Casino Royale – but for real. It’s just so creepy. The way they lurk in their funny outfits around every corner – the impossibility of ever giving them the slip. As Sadie points out – ‘They could be one of us!’. There’s something Port Merionesque about their inescapability and their oddball pantomininess, and they’re especially frightening when contrasted with just how normal everything else in the comic is. Sure, there’s the mega-violence and the bullet in the brain and all, but, until it comes Pinkerton time, it all seems somehow plausible. And then that guy wanders into Danny’s store asking questions. You can just feel the hairs on his neck standing to attention as he describes the memory. I’d want the fuckers conclusively dead too – like some terrible, plastic faced Mr. Punch thing in a nightmare.
There’s something strange going on tonight.
It’s not quite right.
If I was Donnie, Annie, Ceecee or Runco, I’d just fucking run, because those spooky sounds at the end of the song are the noise the Pinks make as they come lurching out of the corners of the world we know….
[Happy now, ed - Amy]
Evil snoops to one side for a minute, what the hell is this?
I think I’ve got an idea what Lapham’s going for here, but I don’t know if it works for me. ‘Mad World’ captures the feeling that, with 3, for most of the cast the world’s been turned on its head. It’s also in keeping with the cool, spare eightiesness of some of what’s come before. It seems to nod to the neon smothered, unfriendly sidewalks floodlit by the shop fronts of all night eateries and 24 hour stores at four in the morning, racing for the taxi to the after-party. The drizzled glow of streetlights in a lonely city. All that jazz.
But the horn stabs.
I don’t know – I’d've gone with West End Girls or something if I wanted to achieve the same effect. The original’s waaay better than the bloody Gary Jules version, but Mad World’s still, in some overwrought, embarrasingly earnest way, extremely annoying. Just check the plonker rave dancing like a machine, before it was fashionable, in the video.
In Brighton, inspite of the fact that we’re the home of innovative, moving and shaking club nights like Thirteen Monsters and It Came From the Sea, most of us, even those of us who are tangentially pals with the people who run these things, have an overdeveloped taste for all things retro. Perhaps it’s because our little London by the sea’s always been a mod mecca, or maybe it’s because we’re just a bunch of neophobic, philistine anti-funs, but, whatever the reason, I almost groaned when I saw Dave had included Rocks Off. And then it hit me. The Stones and Rocks Off have soundtracked so many mashed up nights and days and nights and days again in my life that it would be a crime not to include this grooving, flat-can-of-tepid-beer-with-a-dog end-floating-in-it of a tune in Young Liars. Mayhap the Stones are the lightning rod for all early to mid thirty-something debauchery the world over.
I’m sure that’s what they’d have us believe anyway.
Regardless, listening to it for the billionth time, without the hedonism, reminds me that I actually love this tune. It’s absolutely brilliant – a kaftan and chiffon coated brawl in hippy saloon central – ecstatic, carnivalesque and sexy. And sexy’s what counts here. Danny and Sadie spend a good part of three fucking each other. It’s the first time Danny’s got his leg over and he’s a happy man. Just don’t mention the fact that by this point we suspect Danny may be responsible for Sadie’s brain trauma and this is all make believe anyway. Don’t understand me too quickly, their bodies really are smooshing, it’s just that in the real world, before the shooting, Sadie had a very complicated relationship with her would be lover – one that probably wouldn’t have resulted in bedroom gymnastics. It took actual brain damage for Danny to get a chance with herl. I’m not saying that there isn’t a real, powerful, relationship between these two characters, just that what’s really going on with them is extremely complicated and, like the man says, ‘I (Danny) only get my rocks off when I’m sleeping’, or some sideways world where the geek gets the mentally disturbed girl. Danny’s living out a fantasy. It seems real – she looks, feels, tastes and smells like the woman of your dreams – but that’s all it is, a dream.
The trad rock ‘n’ roll (noticeably the only trad rock in the soundtrack so far) flavour of Rocks Off also riffs pleasingly with Ceecee and her (perhaps slightly damaged) lifestyle as a wannabe star-fucker. It conjures up images off stadium rock excess – suitcases full of red, green and yellow pills, tablets, tabs and white powders, couples slumped in the shadowy blue corners of the party snogging, swimming pools with empty bottles of champagne floating in them and groupies, groupies, groupies. Well in 3 Cee finally comes to the conclusion, after a little tete-a-tete with a bunch of crusty, flaking herselfs twenty years hence, that her vocation might be something less than 100% desirable. Perhaps Dave’s aware of just how apt the tepid beer metaphor really is. The attitude the Stones embody is fun, but it’s also ooold, played out and starting to smell a bit off. I enjoy it a whole lot, but it denies getting wrinkly, even though its boobs are sagging and its boozy paunch is showing, and there’s something disturbingly necrophilic about the love affair some of us have with it.
Aaaah, more up to the minute music, but again, slightly obvious and more than a little disappointing. I’ve just this minute played it to my girlfriend to make double sure, and quick as you like she confirmed my worst fears:
‘Sounds like a run of the mill pop song.’
I knew there was a reason I didn’t rush out and buy The Rapture’s last album. I felt somehow guilty and wrong about it at the time, but I now know I’d've felt even more guilty and wrong if I had bought it. Pieces of the People we Love just isn’t a patch on anything on Mirror or Echoes. Where’s the clanging, cacophonous New York sound that encouraged remixes from a producer as raucous and difficult as Kid 606? Where are the notes from the underground? Gone forever it seems, and there’s a radio friendly chart-topper in their place. Oh well. It’s catchy and all that but I’ll probably forget about it in a month. I’m too depressed to even bother connecting the dots with the comic – the fragments of each other that the characters can lay claim to, Danny’s sense of entitlement to, and ownership of, Sadie and what he actually gets, the self-destructive quality of their relationships, blah – so I think this might be a good place to bow the hell out.
Boo, Rapture! BOO!
We’ll bid farewell to our noble heroes as they wash up on the shores of southern Europe with the promise of more music/comic reviews next time around.
So what do I think of Lapham’s selection? Do I really find his soundtrack irritating? Well, yeah, Tears for Fears and the Rapture niggle a bit, but overall the tunes are fairly solid and at least he’s made it possible for the reader to have a crack at music and comic at the same time, unlike Fraction whose attempt at fusing the two is little more than a curio. I also really enjoy the way the tunes texturise the text. The information isn’t too hard and fast – it’s not too literal. The music just gently douses the scenes with mood and makes the contents of the panels glow a little more brightly. And the overall effect is of a consistent emotional and atmospheric throughline supported by a bunch of records that resonate convincingly with one another.
Having said that, I think I share some of Bobsy’s reservations about this kind of enterprise – I’m not sure I like the way a tune hijacks the meaning and feel of a comic, especially when it’s a crap one. I’m also aware of how ephemeral hipness really is and I’m wary of a comic that concerns itself with anything as temporary and fickle as pop. Lapham tries to counter this by going for songs that, although sometimes a little offbeat and obvious only to poncy musos like myself, are timeless – classics, or instant classics – and in large part, to me at least, he succeeds, but that doesn’t mean a Fluo Kid won’t just see him as another boring old fart and their appreciation of the comic will inevitably suffer because of it.
Which leads me on to:
If I’m brutally honest I think I could posit another reason why people like me find something irritating about music pushing in comicbooks: in the end we might feel that we know better than the creator, and that’s just a let down. We might hate their taste or just feel they’ve no idea what’s on the kid’s stereos at the moment. We might watch them flail about trying to connect with the yoot and prove how up to the minute and relevant they are and cry and cry because, godamnit, good comics writers are like brilliant bands – we don’t want to see them trip up or reveal their fallibility! Lapham must always be excellent! Always much, much cooler than me in every way! He musn’t like bad Rapture records! King Mob must atone for Kula Shaker-gate by grinding his i-pod into the craggy floor of that fucking mesa! Thankfully there’s only a few wronguns in what amounts to a pretty good track listing, so I don’t mind him telling me what to put on the stereo (too much). Okay, okay I know there’s an element to it that’s purely altruistic – he wants to introduce the uninitiated to a world of good shit – but contained within that urge, as I muttered darkly above, is a statement about how he knows what you should be listening to. But you should listen to Suicide, Wire, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones and Battles, fanboy, because they’re all pretty bloody good. So all’s well that ends well.
But believe me when I tell you my alternative soundtrack’s better.
There’s a party at my (very pretty) flat this weekend coming. It’ll be pretty heavy. I promise to give Danny and the gang your love when I see them, and I think I’ve got a good idea what they might be playing on the stereo.
P.S. I know Young Liars is a TV on the Radio song, I just can’t be bothered to offer any more bloody opinions. Go and listen to it yourself. It’s alright. It probably has something to do with the comic.