We’ve all dreamt of making it to the big time! But imagine if you were in a band and could magically make people forget popular songs and then claim them for yourself? In Bee Tee Dee’s Novelty Song #1, the quirky indie tale of a wannabe musician and a magic hole in a tree, that’s exactly what happens. But is this an all-time classic or just another one-hit wonder?
Struggling wannabe musician, Dave Tobin is searching for his ticket to stardom after years of playing in his local music scene. But seeing as his band Jenny Jump have replaced him as lead singer, he may have to keep searching. One drunken night though, he finds an unlikely solution in a most unlikely place. After a chance encounter with a local podcaster/music geek, Dave discovers that when songs are recorded and left in the knot hole of a certain tree (like Scout did for Boo Radley in To Kill A Mockingbird) then the world forgets all about them (apart from those people involved in the recording). Now, rather than wonder why on earth a tree would suddenly have the ability to rewrite musical history, instead Dave starts recording covers of his favourite songs and eradicating them from history so he can lay claim to them himself and make it big. He starts with the odd obscure tracks before moving his way up the musical ladder (including reclaiming his own songs from Jenny Jump). But when Dave’s replacement singer in Jenny Jump discovers his secret then his recipe for success might not be as straight forward as he first thought and their rivalry begins to develop.
Novelty Song is a comic of real contrasts. On one hand it is the ultimate ‘high concept’ story with a delightfully daft and convoluted central premise that if you overthink becomes increasingly ridiculous. However if you just go along with the idea of a magical, music stealing tree and let the rest of the action unfold at its own pace then you are rewarded with a delightfully charming and astutely observed story about the struggles of a small town wannabe and the group of peculiar oddities that make up a local music scene.
Writer/artist Bee Tee Dee’s manages to perfectly capture Dave’s world in all its humdrum glory. From the bickering with his overbearing sound engineer to the inter-band politics of his group of misfit musos. The artwork has a very unique sketchy yet cartoonish style with characters drawn with almost geometric patterns and angles to making the whole thing look and feel unlike any traditional comic book. Bee Tee Dee really lets his imagination go crazy with some fantastic flights of fancy like the Nuggets themed restaurant or the sublime music geekery that is Jasper’s new studio packed full of awesome vintage gear and you can tell that this is a passion project realised.
It’s this level of detail that makes Novelty Song such a fun and engaging read. For anyone who has ever struggled to make it in a band, or for fans of muso books like Scott Pilgrim or King Bone Press’ Bandthology then Novelty Song is a must read.
The characters are incredibly rounded and utterly believable (even if the central premise is completely daft!) and make Dave’s quest for music stardom much more identifiable. This isn’t the kind of glitzy cliched X-Factor tale you might expect from a story like this, if anything, Dave has surprisingly low ambitions considering the power he is given! Although the story begins to slow up a bit by the end of the second issue, there is more than enough interest in there to sustain the book on into the future, with plenty of intriguing directions for this brilliantly charming book to head off in. It makes you wonder if Bee Tee Dee has secretly been hiding Brian O’Malley comics in the trees near his house?!