Moonhead and the Music Machine

Andrew Rae’s wonderful new book Moonhead and the Music Machine tells a familiar American high-school narrative but with a rather unfamiliar device: our protagonist has a moon for a head.

Moonhead and the Music Machine Cover
Moonhead and the Music Machine Cover

The beautiful book, published by Nobrow, is described as ‘a subtle blend between Wayne’s World and Ovid’s Metamorphosis’, and centres on the life of Joey Moonhead, ‘a normal kid in every way except one…he has a moon for a head’.

Getting ready for school
Getting ready for school

As we might expect, this doesn’t make his life easy. His poor noggin is literally kicked around the playground, as well as being used as a classroom globe and popped into the toilet.

He escapes these tribulations – and the fact his parents seem rather disinterested in him – by disappearing into reveries, ‘letting his head float away…to the end of the universe…or the depths of the sea…or the heart of the jungle…’

Joey keeps himself occupied by letting his head float off to the depths of the sea.
Joey keeps himself occupied by letting his head float off to the depths of the sea.

The gorgeous illustrations bring the at times poignant, at times hilarious text to life. His geeky friend Sockets tells him ‘you’ve rationalised your way to loserville!’; while a teacher at parents evening laments ‘you’re a lazyheart and a dreamer’.

Throughout the story Rae weaves in references to art and music: when poor Joey is banished to the spare room, he drifts into daydreams of musical stardom, back dropped by Kandinsky-esque shapes and flashes of colour.

Kandinsky-inspired reveries
Kandinsky-inspired reveries

The next few pages delve into some imaginative album sleeves – featuring the likes of Fulcrum Wilson, with See You Later Oscillator. Rae also sneaks in a reference to his own band, Owen and the Eyeballs, which also includes illustrators Jim Stoten, Nick White and Owen Gildersleeve in real life.

Dreaming of rock and roll stardom
Dreaming of rock and roll stardom

As the story progresses, Joey makes his own music machine, as the title suggests: based on a diagram he has drawn delineating parts including  ‘chops’, ‘sprocket’, ‘whatsit’ and ‘stringy stuff’. 

But this is a victory fraught with its own issues – one being that it turns the high-school bully and his pretty blonde girlfriend into sloppy, green, sludgy masses.

Total psych-out
Total psych-out

We won’t spoil the rest of the tale, but with all the psychedelic colours, triumphing of the underdog and dream-like illustrations, the book, as well as the music machine, is truly magical.

Moonhead and the Music Machine is available now published by Nobrow priced £15.99

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