Criticism and Fandom Duel it Out in Phonogram: The Singles Club #6
From what we’ve seen in Phonogram: The Singles Club so far, Lloyd is more concerned with telling various phonomancers about his “plan” to show pop music’s dark, hypocritical subtext by combining new public domain melodies with “hyper-lewd post-spank-rock sex lyrics”. He’s more critic than an artist or even fan (Except for the Dexys Midnight Runners.) in those five issues. So it’s fitting that Phonogram: The Singles Club #6, Lloyd’s comic, is in zine form and takes place after the revelries are over in his bedroom where he writes about them in his grimoire, er, zine.
In the past, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson show that Lloyd is all about theory, not praxis as evidenced by his awkwardness around dancing and wanting to fanboy over David Kohl instead of having drinking and having a good time at the club. Now we get to see these events from his POV, and it shows that he definitely is all about analysis calling music “sublimated emotion” and his grimoire “sublimated thought”. Lloyd has all these ideas about music, bands, and even people, and he uses writing to basically exorcise them and get them out in the open from his thoughts on David Kohl’s mortality (Their chat was chat was apparently an “interview”) to an essay on why Dexys Midnight Runners means so much to him and finally a poem about Penny on the dance floor.
The Dexys essay really brings out that push and pull between fandom and criticism as Lloyd puts on their single “Plan B” to help him calm down after a very emotional car ride. McKelvie does a fantastic job of showing his pain on the first place as he wrinkles his eyes and puts his fist on the door before throwing a vase of flowers, a classic symbol of love and devotion. However, once Lloyd gets to his room he’s all business, putting on a record, and then pulling out his typewriter and getting to work on his grimoire. I can definitely connect to him finding comfort through putting his thoughts about a certain topic in order, and it’s something I have done myself after a tough breakup or a tough emotional bit. Like, I’m taking a break from that part of my brain and going to use the other one.
I get that kind of analytical vibe from Lloyd as he basically reports on events of Phonogram: The Singles Club usually mainly prose, but also collage and even a really fun comic to illustrate his “master plan”, which honestly works more effectively than the multiple times he told folks about it. It’s also interesting that the three people in the band look like stick figure versions of him, Penny, and Laura Heaven. And Lloyd totally still wants Penny to be the frontwoman as he does an extra little ritual before writing out her response to his plan as well as the aforementioned poem. Gillen captures Lloyd’s eloquence in describing how Penny dances to “Pull Shapes” with some killer lines like “My mocking words are turned to chalk and dust by her every step…” It’s the perfect verbal companion to the splash page at the end of The Singles Club #1, and it’s nice that Lloyd got to enjoy that moment too. In theory, never in practice although that will change by the end of this issue.
On the other end of the spectrum is Lloyd’s relationship with Laura Heaven. (And, no, we haven’t seen the last of it.) Gillen and McKelvie truly understand the tragedy of a missed emotional and intellectual connection with someone as Lloyd waxes poetic about he and Laura are on on the same page about his plan, but then she leaves the cab, and then he starts ripping up the zine page. They have a kind of chemistry, and it’s all dashed to pieces as Lloyd falls on the band surrounded by sigils with McKelvie giving him an aimless stare. Wilson keeps the color palette a neutral sepia because it’s a little bit of a flashback as Lloyd is thinking back to last night, but mostly, he’s not feeling super magical.
But the magic returns in the final four pages of Phonogram: The Singles Club #6 as Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson capture the euphoric feeling of listening to a song by a new band for the first time. (A band that you will probably fall in love with.) They kick it off with a tight, six-panel flashback of David Kohl basically nudging Lloyd to expand his horizons beyond Dexys and suggesting Los Campesinos!, who had just started during the events of this story, released two albums before the publication of The Singles Clubs, and are considered indie legends today. Instead of overanalyzing his personality, Kohl and Lloyd have a nice chat about music, and it leads to Lloyd going on MySpace (So much nostalgia!) and streaming “We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives”.
What follows is a love story in motion as Lloyd dances all around his bedroom to the track, only moving to headphones when he gets a noise complaint, and his new grimoire is inspired by them. McKelvie shows the progression of his interest in the artist as he clicks on the song, starts moving his hands around and makes a comment about the lyrics, and then finally goes into full dance mode. In a single panel, Lloyd demonstrates more vigor and physical energy than in the previous five issues, and it’s redemptive for him as he’s genuinely a fan of good indie and pop music and not just a critic stuck in a niche, or worse, a rut. He had a rough night, but now he has some new tunes and a new lease on life and his grimoires/zines. As a comics critic, it’s the equivalent of stepping outside of your usual beat and creators and enjoying some new kind of work.
Phonogram: The Singles Club #6 is all about how a new artist and/or song can be quite refreshing, especially if you’re prone to overanalysis like poor Lloyd. (I was probably a little too hard on him last article.) Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson also craft a homage to fanzines and the power of putting passion into words and images like Lloyd does in this issue before burning it all down to be consumed by a new song. And the dancing at the end is really a nice transition to the final and arguably best issue of Phonogram The Singles Club even though Lloyd and Kid-with-Knife are polar opposites.