Review: Alan Moore’s Unearthing Album by Terrance Terich

Terrance Terich from Treblezine writes for Bleeding Cool;

I’d imagine that if one made a Venn diagram of fans of independent music and comic book collectors, that there would be more crossover than at first anticipated. I am merely one example, but I take comfort in the idea that I am only one of many. While I was saving money to buy Substance on vinyl, I was also setting aside enough dough to pick up issues of “Batman: Year One,” New Mutants, the X-Men “Mutant Registration” storyline, the Iron Man series with the new armor, and Spider-Man being bested by Kraven the Hunter. The ’80s, despite its drawbacks in a variety of arenas, was formative for me in terms of music and comics. While the Smiths, New Order and Echo & the Bunnymen played on my Walkman, I immersed myself in the words and art of Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Todd McFarlane, David Mazzucchelli, and of course, Alan Moore.

Interestingly, as time went on, while Moore’s peers sought the heights of fame, money, and the grandeur of being an entrepreneur, Moore himself rejected anything that sullied the original intention of his writing. The ’90s became a vapid wasteland for the comics industry, with variant covers, holograms, polybags and trading cards that didn’t make up for weak storylines. As always, there were some shining moments in the Valiant imprint and a few standout books here and there. But the late ’80s to the mid ’90s were noticeable in the absence of Alan Moore. It was as if he had pulled a Keyser Soze on his fans, disappearing at a time when he was just beginning to be known. Moore returned to writing comics, stuff that is arguably as good as anything he had penned thus far, but nothing that would every get the attention as a Watchmen, a V for Vendetta or a From Hell.

Those three properties grew so intensely in fans’ and creators’ eyes as some of the best comics ever made that they began to take on lives of their own. As eventually happens with any hot property, especially comics in the last decade, films were made. Moore distanced himself from them completely, growing disillusioned with the Hollywood methods of manipulation and mistreatment. I remember hearing a story, and I don’t know exactly how true it is, in which John Grisham is invited to see a screening of his novel, The Firm, the first of his books to be adapted to film. He is giddy with excitement, despite the fact that the film has completely changed the ending, completely subverting the author’s message. This is what we would expect from most people, the joy of success, despite its trappings. Not so for Moore.

This is a lot of back-story and anecdotal information for a really strange project from Moore, I know. But, in delving into Unearthing, the book / music / photography / spoken word mélange, I was thrown into a reverie of the past. Unearthing isn’t exactly something that someone on the periphery of either comics or music would simply take a leap into or dabble with. Frankly, it’s something that even the most ardent Alan Moore fans might take a pass on. So, what is it? Unearthing is really a collaboration between Moore, photographer Mitch Jenkins, and musical score artists, Crook & Flail (really Subtle’s Adam Drucker and Fog’s Andrew Broder). Moore reads a long-form essay about Steve Moore (no relation), the man who got him into comics, over atmospheric music, peppered with appearances by Mike Patton, Hella’s Zach Hill, Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite, and Jesu’s Justin Broadrick.

But, this isn’t exactly meant to be an exposé of the inner workings of the comics industry that some might be hoping for. Instead, it is a loving and poetic tribute to not only his friend, but a verbose and rhythmic love letter to the history of comics in general. Moore’s voice is captivating, as those who have heard his previous spoken word performances can attest to, and the Crook & Flail music floating behind every mellifluous syllable can be enjoyed on its own. In fact, the package (and it’s a pricey one) comes with an instrumental EP made by the aforementioned artists. With it’s slipcase, bookshelf, coffee table, vinyl collector’s format, many will not find a way in to this odd bit of magic, but those who do will have great reason for doing so.

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Unearthing can be heard here.

About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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