Music

Dean & Britta: 13 Most Beautiful: Songs For Andy Warhol's Screen Tests

A lovingly handled soundtrack to Andy Warhol's short films of notables from the Factory crowd.


Dean & Britta

13 Most Beautiful: Songs for Andy Warhol's Screen Tests

Label: Double Feature
US Release Date: 2010-07-27
UK Release Date: 2010-07-26
Artist Website
Amazon
iTunes

Last year, former Galaxie 500 front man/Lunanite Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips, also formerly of Luna, presented a series of shows that saw the duo performing in front of a selection of Andy Warhol's screen tests of Factory notables. Wareham and Phillips were commissioned by the Warhol Museum and Pittsburg Cultural Trust to take on the task of scoring the tests, a grand opportunity for anyone in a Velvet Underground inspired indie band. On last count this constitutes 88% of all indie bands, ever. Not only are Wareham and Phillips exceedingly lucky, they are more capable than most of doing justice to the tests.

As the Wareham authored liner notes imply, the project was lovingly handled through the selection of 13 standout screen tests (13 because Warhol was given to screening the tests this way), to finding appropriate approaches for each test. A DVD of their efforts was released by Plexifilm last year, and now the musical side of the project is getting a two-disc release featuring the 13 screen test tracks with some impressive remixes thrown in for good measure. Although the level of professionalism applied to this project assures that certain tracks stand alone and need no visual accompaniment, it at times fails to escape the same fate of a successful movie score in places; i.e., certain songs are clearly enhanced when played up against their respective tests.

Thanks to the magic of YouTube, the experience provided by the 13 Most Beautiful DVD can be viewed by the even the thriftiest Dean & Britta fan. This exercise makes some songs cooler and others more intense. "Herringbone Tweed" is a repetitious instrumental groove on its own, but when placed in the context of Dennis Hopper's screen test, it becomes downright lethal. Subdued at first, Hopper, who is vested in a herringbone tweed blazer, eventually appears to nod along to Wareham's laid-back guitar lick. Likewise, Lou Reed's soda-guzzling test, set to a Velvet Underground rarity called "Not a Young Man Anymore", turns into the hippest, most reckless product placement for Coca-Cola ever.

"Ann Buchanan Theme", when listened to alone, is a wistful wash of modulation, dreamy but fleeting despite its four-and-a-half-minute length. When played along with the screen test, emotions are strengthened as Buchanan stares straight into the camera and restrains from blinking until tears roll down her face. As Wareham points out in the liner notes, his guitar solo synchs up with a large tear dripping from Buchanan's chin. Buchanan was more closely connected with the Beat poets than the Factory crowd, yet her test and the song it inspired Wareham and Phillips to use -- an instrumental of a track called "Singer Sing" -- arises as one of the most stirring on the album.

Contrasts are no better exemplified than when two very dissimilar tracks are chosen for two nearly identical Factory regulars. Edie Sedgwick is serenaded with "It Don't Rain in Beverly Hills", a sad and dreamy ode to doomed beauties such as the ill-fated model, who appears beautiful yet vacant in her test. Ingrid Superstar, who bore a physical resemblance to Sedgwick and whom the liner notes attest could not have been more different in personality, gets a fun, jangly number from the Luna vaults called "Eyes in My Smoke" as her theme. Although Superstar met a similar fate to Sedgwick, Superstar's screen test presents a fun, charming girl giving the finger as Wareham and Phillips sing surreal lines and New York landmarks to one another.

Oftentimes, the 13 Most Beautiful tracks that work best as standalones are the remixes. All of Sonic Boom's contributions add an extra layer of spaciness, particularly on "Teenage Lightning (and Lonely Highways)" -- a song for the archetypically handsome Paul America -- where the fuzzed out zings and pings amplify the subject's chemical dependency. Overall, however, watching the screen tests gives the same effect as listening to 13 Most Beautiful: it's hard to imagine one without the other, a testament to how considered 13 Most Beautiful is. Perhaps more meaningful to fans of either Warhol or Wareham and Phillips, it is nonetheless to be respected as a true achievement.

8
Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.

Books

John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.

Music

Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.

Music

Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.

Books

Murder Is Most Factorial in 'Eighth Detective'

Mathematician Alex Pavesi's debut novel, The Eighth Detective, posits mathematical rules defining 'detective fiction'.

Music

Eyedress Sets Emotions Against Shoegaze Backdrops on 'Let's Skip to the Wedding'

Eyedress' Let's Skip to the Wedding is a jaggedly dreamy assemblage of sounds that's both temporally compact and imaginatively expansive, all wrapped in vintage shoegaze ephemera.

Film

Of Purges and Prescience: On David France's LGBTQ Documentary, 'Welcome to Chechnya'

The ongoing persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya, or anywhere in the world, should come as no surprise, or "amazement". It's a motif undergirding the history of civil society that certain people will always be identified for extermination.

Television

Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.

Film

Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".

Music

The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.

Music

The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.

Music

Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.

Music

​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.

Music

John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.