You Can Know a Catacomb so Deep There Ain't No Goodbyes


Last year, Philip and I were in the studio finishing a recording of Thought & a Chaser when he told me to keep the tape rolling, because he “wanted to try something”—words that strike fear into my heart. What came out of this sweaty .wav file was the first episode of Brain Tape.

Brain Tape is a painstakingly close reading of the seminal webcomic, Achewood. Each episode, we endeavor to suck the marrow out of each strip, like some sort of comic osso bucco. We’re working our way through the famous Great Outdoor Fight arc of the comic, from 2006.

I am a huge fan of Achewood, and I quote it incessantly, the way some people quote The Simpsons, or perhaps, the Bible. It is a deeply literary comic, whose art serves as a justification for the strip’s play with language, format, character, and magical realism. The comic is a treat, and I’ve read it back to front several times over my life. I can call complete strips to mind and recite them verbatim. It’s honestly spooky, and I have to imagine, pretty irritating.

Philip, on the other hand, reads each strip the moment before we record. He is as innocent as a babe.

This is a special and precious thing! Unlike a lot of close readings or recap podcasts, we are not two nerds nerding out equally. It’s more pressure on me, honestly—each episode I’m trying (with real skin in the game) to describe why I feel such deep love for an arcane, mystifying, and (yeah, I’ll say it) problematic work.

I see this as a corrollary to artist Paul Karasik’s exhortation to “Study something you love in depth” (h/t Austin Kleon); I have already studied in depth, and now my task is to use that depth to produce love in somebody else.

Even if you’re not a fan of Achewood (yet), I hope you’ll give Brain Tape a listen (starting from the first episode). It is tailor-made to make you fall in love—into the depths into which I descended long ago.