Comics

REVIEW: End of a Century

Written by Fred McNamara

A visually lip-smacking treasure chest of a fondly remembered era of music, yet curiously empty in its presentation, End of a Century is yet another idiosyncratic title from SelfMadeHero (we recently counted down 10 of their best moments here), in that it would look less at home next to your Batman and Avengers TPB, and instead more at home snuggled up with your worn-out copies of OasisDefinitely Maybe or Blur‘s Parklife.

End of a Century is a collection of album illustrations drawn by the sadly passed John Wrake, better known as Run Wrake, that accompanied album reviews in the NME back in the 1990s. Reading through this coffee-table sized tuck box of a bygone era of music is rather fun, but when it’s just the illustrations themselves presented here, does that make End of a Century somewhat mild reading?

First off, Run’s artwork is constant, and delightfully, weird throughout. It’s always fun to spot how the cut-out mania of Terry Gilliam‘s mad doodles in Monty Python contributed to other art forms, and reading End of a Century makes it fairly obvious that Run must have been quite the fan of the group. There’s some fierce comedy to the collection as well. I don’t know about you, but I always find it shockingly hilarious that artists like Nirvana and Pearl Jam existed in the same era as Boyzone and Take That. What’s perhaps more shocking is how Run treats those four artists (who are included in this book), and with everyone else, with the same amount of creative flourish.

Run’s artwork itself is full of brash immediacy, and every illustration has a warm, watery glow to it, even when The Chemical Brothers are depicted as rabbits bearing firearms and Pavement are turned into some Godzilla-like beast out of Terror Twlight!

However, there is a feeling that End of a Century only tells half the story here. If you’re unfamiliar with the artists Run captures or their albums he illustrates, the humour found here may be lost on you. But that’s not to say End of a Century is something strictly for vinyl-munchers. Anyone can appreciate an interesting piece of art, and there’s bags of the stuff to be appreciated here. Run clearly has fun tearing apart both the artist and the album, and the end results really do read like some kaleidoscopic daydream, and wouldn’t be out of place in the infamous Beatles flick Yellow Submarine (incidentally, The BeatlesAnthology 3 album, released in October 1996, pops up in Run form in the book).

Even with all this gloriously subversive artwork to indulge in, those who are fans of the bands in question will certainly enjoy this collection more. But anyone with a decent and varied taste in music could spend hours trawling through these illustrations, not to mention the time spent deciphering what was going through Run’s mind when turning the music into pictures. Wickedly odd stuff, and plenty of fun to flick through.

Have you read End of a Century? What did you make of Run’s illustrations? Let us know in the comments section or send us a Tweet!

About the author

Fred McNamara