Black Postcards

February 11, 2009 at 1:12 am (Uncategorized)

Autobiographies are fraught with danger. Too often they are written either a self-serving justifications for odious behaviour, or they are so far distant from the original events they they provide little insight into the subject.  

Black Postcardsis Dean Wareham’s account of his two decades in rock ‘n’ roll with Galaxie 500, Luna, and more recently as a solo artist as Dean and Britta with his wife and former Luna bass player Britta Phillips.

Even given the opening caveat, it was a great pleasure to read Wareham’s book.  Wareham has a witty engaging style, and he’s not afraid to show himself in a bad light.

Wareham was born in New Zealand, but he  moved to the States in his teens. He attended Harvard where he met Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang; the three formed Galaxie 500 in 1987. (Actually, for me, the most interesting thing was that Wareham was a contact of the Spartacist League in his first year there). 

I’m not going to waste much time selling the virtues of Galaxie 500. If you know of them, you already know their distinct charm; if you don’t, it’s probably time to invest.  I’ve always felt the Peel Sessions record is a nice place to begin – slowed down and re-interpreted versions of others’ songs, including covers of the Sex Pistols, Buffy Saint Marie and the Young Marble Giants.

Galaxie 500 broke up in 1991 when Wareham quit the band. Wareham’s account of the break-up certainly doesn’t paint him as the good guy. It’s fascinating to read about just how difficult it is being in a band, and in some ways it’s like being in a marriage – and we all know how some of them turn out. The constant pressures to record, tour, sell, and the egos all put an extreme amount of pressure on the band – it really is the music business. If you want a visual record of the process, rent the Ramones movie End of the Century. It was certainly a lot more fun watching the band than being in it.

Luna, the band Wareham formed after Galaxie 500, also confounded critics. Loved by fans, the press labelled them dream pop, a term Wareham disliked. After eight albums, and the break up of his marriage, Wareham folded Luna too. He continues to record with Britta Phillips the former bass player of Luna.

Black Postcards achieves two goals. It tells a story, and it entertains. It left me with pages of notes, and things to check out. It’s well worth investing a few hours in.

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