Benjamin Frisch strips the saccharine from the Sunday Funnies page in his new graphic novel, The Fun Family. A bitingly dark and oft hilarious portrait of such domestic icons as Family Circus and… Family Circus, Frisch’s comic gets meta in the travails of a cartoonist whose panels are far more ideal than the cracks forming around his own personal life.
When tasked with setting up a playlist to this dysfunctional bombshell, Frisch vouched for tunes full of dissonance. Ranging from the pastoral mellow of Boards of Canada to the subversive nightmare fuel of Burial, any major chords soon ebb into pitches far less settling, mirroring his own characters’ trajectories. The Fun Family releases this week from publisher Top Shelf Productions.
Cartooning is extremely time-intensive, but a perk of the job is that it leaves your ears free. I listen to a lot of music while working, so when I was invited to make a playlist I thought I’d make one that has some thematic resonance to my work, and specifically to my book, The Fun Family. The Fun Family is a story about a perfect cartoon family that finds itself on the precipice of a changing world, fracturing its ideas of family and self. I love music where there is some dissonance between the form and the content of the song, so I chose some of my favorite pieces following that idea.
“From One Source All Things Depend,” Boards of Canada
I feel obligated to start with Boards of Canada as their music is The Fun Family: woozy nostalgia for a past that never existed. Feel free to replace this list with their albums Music Has The Right To Children and Geogaddi, and have fun.
“All Those Weird Things,” Lone
I imagine this is what it’s like to be trapped inside a kaleidoscope. It’s a lot of fun until you realize how claustrophobic it is. It’s Boards of Canada for the dancefloor, but even stranger.
“CANDY CANDY,” Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
One fun aspect of not speaking Japanese is getting to imagine what J-pop songs are actually about. I’m almost certainly reaching, but I sense an undercurrent of sadness in “CANDY CANDY.” Underneath all the gloss there’s something that suggests that there might be more to life than “candy love.”
“I Don’t Believe In You,” Talk Talk
Starting out as a Duran Duran rip-off band, Talk Talk became one of the most shockingly original and adventurous groups of all time. An inspiration for anyone who ever feels stuck in place.
“Waking The Witch,” Kate Bush
My first musical obsession and forever-idol, Kate Bush taught me that there is no contradiction between art and pop. “Waking The Witch” is a nightmare, part of “The Ninth Wave,” a song cycle about a woman adrift at sea, hallucinating and struggling to stay awake, which dovetails nicely with a certain dream sequence in The Fun Family.
“Replica (OPN Edit),” Oneohtrix Point Never
The idea of creating replicas of things we love in order to preserve them is a major theme of The Fun Family, and so this song runs the risk of being a little on-the-nose. I love the original album version of this song but the OPN Edit’s added lyrics turn it into a sad-sack weirdo pop song and I can’t help myself.
“You Won’t Need Me Where I’m Goin’,” How To Dress Well
Like a lost Michael Jackson song being played back by a choir of TalkBoys. I love how the production can’t handle the sonic or emotional content of this song; it wants to explode, but it can’t, trapped in a box.
“In McDonalds,” Burial
Misanthropy made musical.
“1969,” Boards of Canada
“1969” is BoC at their darkest, all the warmth has been sapped out and replaced by dread run-backwards through a tape machine. The perfect soundtrack for a nuclear event.
“Shake it Off,” El Perro Del Mar
El Perro Del Mar uses the juxtaposition of form and content as a musical metaphor for struggling through depression. Amid lush ‘60s-style production and doo-wop clichés, the singer seems to be having a nervous breakdown, but powers through anyway, sha sha sha-ing through tears. It’s not quite the same, but El Perro Del Mar helped inspire the contrast in the cutesy jewel-toned art of The Fun Family, and the darker storyline which contrasts it.
“You Made Me Realise,” My Bloody Valentine
Sometimes you just want to have your ears blown off.