Saturday, September 4, 2010

Review - Phonogram: Rue Britannia by Kieran Gillan and Jamie McKelvie

Phonogram is a sly commentary on the Britpop years (1992-1998, at a pinch) with a dash of magic realism thrown in for good measure.

It looks back to when the retro-futurist strain of indie - drawing on mod, New Wave and both summers of love for its music and fashion cues - made it unexpectedly big. As is the way of trends, Britpop then become creatively bankrupt pretty much as soon as the name was coined. It sometimes led to literal bankruptcy, such as in the case of the Creation record label.

A whole tranche of bands - some deservedly, others tragically - were drawn down into a Sarlacc Pit of mediocrity, commercialism and Gallagheriana.

That Phonogram tells this story using the device of a 'phonomancer' (a magician of music) exploring the memory kingdom of Britpop with Luke Haines of the Auteurs acting as Virgil to his Dante not only adds to its charm. More, it lifts it out of being merely illustrated music journalism to being a wise, funny meditation on the perils and seductions of nostalgia.

I suspect it's readership will be confined mainly to men of a certain age - but at least it will unite music and comic nerds.

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