Thursday, 1 November 2012

Books: I'm Never Coming Back


I'm Never Coming Back 
By Julian Hanshaw

Available now from Islington Libraries
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Sometime. Not often - but sometimes - you come across something that just - I dunno - upends how you think about stuff: or rather (more particularly) makes you rethink the medium it comes in (this might get a little bit blah and hard to follow - but I will do my best to make it as simple and as clear as I can - ok? Cool).

Me - well - I guess my first love would be music (closely followed by films: and then somewhere underneath them (coming in at a pretty respectable third place) comes - comics [1]) so it makes sense that that's where I notice it the most: I mean - maybe not so much now that I'm no longer full of the piss and vinegar of my youth (nowadays there's not quite so much of the latter): but I can recall several times putting on a CD [2] and just getting a strange sense of almost (I dunno) vertigo from realising that music could exist in this strange new form that you'd never quite realised before. (You want an example don't you?) well - ok then: the first time that I ever listened to Plastikman [3]. I mean - sure: for what it is - it's nothing that special: it's just (very) minimal techno - it's very spacious but at the same time: it just feels really deep and expansive (like if most other music is all splashing around in puddles and jumping in pools - Plastikman feels more like staring into the middle of the ocean or something [4]. But (damnit) the point isn't Plastikman - the point is coming across something (ok - fine - you might as well call it a piece of art [5]) that makes you realise that you don't just have to use the same tools in the same way as everyone else has before: and instead of just smashing things you can use the same elements (sound, moving images, pictures on a page or whatever) and - well - express an idea or a thought or an emotion in a way that no one else has ever thought of trying to express before and instead of making whatever medium it is feel worn out and odd and used up: it kinda opens it up - so that instead (all you can see) are the - possibilities. To take another example that more people will be familar with (sorry Plastikman) it's like the first time Nirvana showed up and people realised: wow - guitars turned up really loud playing simple melodies actually sounds - really bloody fantastic. Right? You get what I mean? It's not just that the thing is good: but that it's different in such a way to what you're used to that it makes you kinda dizzy  - like if someone grabbed a chair and cup that had both being lying around your house and then squeezed them together to make something new: and all you can do is gawp and think: "it seemed so obvious - why didn't I notice it before?"

Ok: so yeah - I realise now that I've built up this book quite a lot: but what the hey - these where the thoughts that were in my mind as I read Julian Hanshaw's I've Never Coming Back.Well - actually (tell a lie) my first thought - I wonder why this artwork looks so familar? Oh yeah: it looks like the something from Monkey Dust! (No? Never seen Monkey Dust? - it was a short-lived BBC 3 cartoon that constantly dared itself to see just how dark it could go and get away with it: it wasn't always brilliant - but when it was good it was very, very good - will leave you to youtube it yourself (I mean - I would start checking the clips to find some good ones - but I'm afraid that if I start - I might get drawn in and lose a few hours: but then - hey - what could be a higher recommendation than that?)).

Yes. When I first picked it up I kinda thought it was gonna be another case of "hipster comics" - all form, no content (sickly sweet taste - but no carbs): but then when I first looked at the cover I thought it was a close-up of a flea. But no - it's a lobster - eyes poking out of it's it's shell (which just goes to show that it always pays to take a closer look at things [6]). And instead of feeling like something that's been thrown together without much thought about what it is that's been done: it feels more like a personal vision - like something that's been created because the author had no other choice: and a feeling of enclosed space - like the book was written in a cave hidden from other human eyes and never intended to be read by anyone else. 

I mean - alright - not to build it up too much - not all of the stories work (and the last one I couldn't really get my head around at all - but then maybe that's because I don't much like cricket): but when it works (and my personal favourite is the Cafe in the middle of the nowhere and the Diving Suit man) it's a bit like discovering - well: if not a whole new language - at least a few good new words. Or (like I wrote down in my notes when I first starting reading it): Yes. 

[1] If Islington ever let me then I would absolutely love to do an Islington Music Forum or (the probably more easy to organise) Islington Film Forum. Sadly: that kinda thing is apparently not viable at this point in time (but - hey - if you'd like to help advocate the idea on my behalf then you could get in touch with people: here: maybe something like: "I would very much like an Islington Film Forum to happen run by the same guy who does the Islington Comic Forum please?" Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on....).

[2] For our young readers: The Compact Disc, or CD for short, is an optical disc used to store digital data. It was originally developed to store and play back sound recordings only, but the format was later adapted for other functions. Audio CDs and audio CD players have been commercially available since October 1982. In 2004, worldwide sales of CD audio, CD-ROM, and CD-R reached about 30 billion discs. By 2007, 200 billion CDs had been sold worldwide. But nowadays - thanks to more modern technologies -  audio CD sales have dropped nearly 50% from their peak in 2000. (Ho hum).

[3] That would have been Closer. (It looks like this. And sounds like this).

[4] I tried to find a good review to sum him up to those of you who don't know what I'm talking about: but all I could find was stuff like this: "Is this not the point of techno – to strip bare the funk, to debase the sham, to reveal the fascist core of the wires underneath, the violence of the cold metal, to become closer to that which we create in our metallic movements of mechanized bodies?" (Oh well).

[5] As mentioned elsewhere: I am uncomfortable with the use of the word "art" as - one - most of the time it's unhelpful and doesn't really add anything of real value to the conversation and - two - if you use to describe something (well) for me - it kinda makes it sound like you're reaching for something that you can't quite get a hold on (or something - I dunno: maybe I'll try and explain it better some other time...).

[6] Except - ooops: when you read the book you'll find it's not a lobster - it's a crab. (Oh well). 


Further reading: Goilath, Habibi, Black Hole, A Taste of Chlorine, Blue Pills, ProphetLost at Sea, The Arrival.

All comments welcome.

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