Thursday, July 24th, 2008
A Rock & Roll Romance
Photo by Frank Yang
It may have sat on my bookshelf for almost three months before I even cracked the spine, Dean Wareham’s memoirs Black Postcards: A Rock & Roll Romance barely took me a day to finish reading. No doubt my being a long-standing fan of all his works, from Galaxie 500 through my beloved Luna to his present works as Dean & Britta, contributed to the rate at which I plowed through it but I think that anyone who’s interested in the life and times of a cult indie rock band would have found it just as compelling, whether they knew his work or not.
Black Postcards reminded me very much of Bob Dylan’s own memoirs, Chronicles, and not just because it was the last rock bio I read. Both their careers have obviously taken much different trajectories, they’re both famously cryptic in their songwriting and standoffish at best with the press, yet both their books are surprisingly clear and forthright. Starting at the very beginning and his childhood in New Zealand and Australia, Wareham is comprehensive in his recollections. He traces the path of Galaxie 500 from a university dorm project to cult band playing the European festival circuit and offers his own perspective on quitting the band when they seemed on the cusp of something greater – bandmate Damon Krukowski has gone on the record with his account of the band’s dissolution and while Wareham doesn’t necessarily contradict them, he does offer his own reasonings for needing to get out.
The Luna years are similarly covered. Though it features numerous entertaining anecdotes about the mundanity of life on the road – common topics are hotels, food, narcotic adventures and occasional dalliances – the running theme is mostly of Wareham’s frustrations with essentially having plateaued as a band, commercially speaking. Playing the same venues tour after tour, ongoing label issues, intra-band tensions – certainly not unique to Luna, but that doesn’t make it easier to take. Wareham is also extremely forthcoming on his personal life, particularly about his affair with bandmate (and now wife) Britta Phillips and all the ensuing drama, including the subsequent dissolution of his first marriage. He recounts most everything matter of factly, not necessarily apologetically but with the benefit of hindsight. It’s a wholly engrossing read, particularly for someone as emotionally invested in the music around it all as I am, and it’s interesting how much of Wareham’s seemingly nonsensical lyrics are actually about something concrete. And yeah, it totally made me miss Luna, like a phantom limb.
And it also prompted me to do as I’ve intended for over two years and watch the band commentary for the Tell Me Do You Miss Me documentary DVD. The film runs in parallel with the last portion of the book quite tightly but rather than offer any more insight into the final days of the band, the commentary is more a reminiscence about the making of the film. Recorded a year after the band officially broke up, the interplay amongst Dean, Britta and Sean Eden (Lee Wall recorded his track on his own in Los Angeles) is friendly though some of the lingering band tension does surface occasionally. It’s sort of a silly thing to care about, but it pleased me see that all of them still get along. Or at least did a couple years ago.
Here in the present, Dean and Britta are obviously carrying along quite nicely with Dean & Britta. Their debut album, L’Avventura has been out of print for a while but will be getting a reissue on September 2 with some bonus tracks from the Sonic Souveniers remix EP tacked on for good measure. Lee Wall has a MySpace. Sean Eden was running with Elk City but is now also with Gramercy Arms. Odds of a Luna reunion are slim to none unless you start throwing lots of money at them. Le sigh.
Neil Young discusses his plans surrounding the release of Archives this Fall with Billboard. He reveals that there will be CD and DVD editions, not just Blu-Ray, and there will also be extensive touring to support. He does not reveal a release date. He also stopped in at the Charlie Rose show – video clip at The Daily Swarm.
Also at The Quietus is also offering up an audio guide to Sheffield, England courtesy of Jarvis Cocker. Paste also reports that Jarv is composing songs for Wes Anderson’s adaptation of The Fantastic Mr Fox. Five will get you six that he’ll also have to cover a Kinks song for the soundtrack. Cocker, by the way, may well now be #1 on my list of artists whom I have yet to see live (and have a reasonable expectation of doing so). Seeing the reports back from Pitchfork and New York City this past week have made me all angsty that he hasn’t come to play Toronto yet – and hasn’t been here since Pulp’s final show at Massey Hall in 1998 (I believe – do correct me if I’m wrong unless it means that I’ve actually missed seeing him here in the past decade).
There’s some kind of meme running through the whole of the music media in the last few weeks… The San Francisco Chronicle gets Rob Dickinson to discuss Catherine Wheel’s place in the annals of shoegazing.
Chad Van Gaalen, whose new record Soft Airplane is out September 9, will be at the Mod Club on October 4.
No, I didn’t go to the She & Him show last night – a combination of general tiredness and too many things to do took precedence. And anyway, I saw them at SxSW, so I’m good. The Toronto Star talked to Matt Ward, Metromix and The Philadelphia Inquirer to Zooey Deschanel.