The fact that this is still essentially a live review blog is getting lost in all the bullshit I do instead of life reviews. Back to the grind, picking up about a billion years ago where I left off.
Went to see Dean Wareham play Galaxie 500 songs in the Workman’s Club when he played there, at which point he was probably still the most credible mouldy-curtain mope-pop icon to pass through its doors. This is obviously no longer the case since Squarehead dropped by to hang out with fans, but still, it was pretty exciting to see this guy close up.
Galaxie 500 have always seemed frozen in the past to me, a band who, by the time you’ve discovered them, have no chance of reforming and even if they did they’ve been dead too long to be anything but a reanimated artefact. I first heard of them via Jamie Stewart from Xiu Xiu, though I don’t fully remember if it’s because he mentioned On Fire on a song or because he was just talking about them on his blog, years ago. I wasn’t initially filled with enthusiasm, because unlike happy bop music, I don’t really jump from sad band to sad band. You have to approach cagily, make sure they’re on your level, not too trite, not too angsty.
So when you’re finished approaching cagily and your suspicions are allayed, you tend to develop a pretty strong attachment to these dudes. But as Galaxie 500 aren’t really much part of the discourse I fell into inhabiting on the internet, I didn’t even know what Dean Wareham looked like. Kind of like a well-preserved (or even ‘mummified’) version of a TV movie lead man as it turns out. And he’s weird.
It’s always a dangerous step to put a face and a personality to music. Wareham’s little, almost-to-himself song introductions actually provided a lot more insight into his music than he or anyone might have expected them to. You know Strange, where you relate to the guy who goes down the street to the store and thinks everyone’s looking and acting ‘funny’? Classic moment in misfit music right? Or, wait, he was on acid.
Decomposing Trees’ outsider freak out, delirious and hallucinatory? Also acid. We are all of the New Critical school at least when we want to be here, though, so that obviously doesn’t detract from the music. It just gave me a new view of a guy I had probably rather speciously presumed spent his time staring at peeled wallpaper (not peeling), lightly strumming simple chords for 200 years.
There is power in the repeated chord progression as well as the blood, and that’s where all Wareham’s intensity comes from live. His wife Britta plays a tiny bass and the drummer doesn’t play that hard, so it’s down to Wareham, both singing and playing, to provide substance. He does. He’s a substancey guy (in both senses, as I discovered). He plays lightly when he needs to play lightly and heavily when he needs to play heavily and the dynamics rest on him.
And, mostly importantly, he played the hits. There was no support. This is a different world’s Bruce Springsteen.