PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Galaxie 500: Don't Let Our Youth Go to Waste (1987-1991)

Justin Cober-Lake

Galaxie 500

Don't Let Our Youth Go to Waste (1987-1991)

Label: 1987-1991
US Release Date: 2004-06-29
UK Release Date: 2004-07-05

Although it had a short existence, Galaxie 500 remains an important group from the late '80s underground scene. The group -- singer/guitarist Dean Wareham, bassist Naomi Yang, and drummer Damon Krukowski -- developed a style of music influential to a variety of genres but not easily place in its own. The band used reverb guitar to create a blend of shoegaze, dreampop, and slowcore before splitting up in the early '90s (with members playing primarily in Luna and Damon and Naomi). Galaxie 500: Don't Let Our Youth Go to Waste (1987-1991) documents this period by presenting live footage, interviews, and the group's four videos. The double-disc DVD has its moments, but it's primarily a collection for serious fans and completists.

The music videos -- for "Tugboat", "When Will You Come Home", "Blue Thunder", and "Fourth of July" -- start the documentary, but probably prove to be the least insightful. In the DVD's booklet, Yo La Tengo's James McNew interviews the band, and they discuss the novelty not only of making videos, but also of doing so at a time when the medium hadn't been fully explored. Several of the videos contain violent or destructive images, and Wareham explains the director's urge to "undermine the band's pastoral image". The interview here, and throughout the booklet, is often more intriguing than the film, and it's been constructed brilliantly. You can read the interview along with each section of the film, like a visual version of traditional audio commentary, but it's much better than the explanations on most DVD's, and works well withou the movie.

The other interview associated with the film is on the first disc and was taken from a February 1990 conversation for a UK television station. The band comes off well, and goofy, but as if they're trying to hard. The interviewer seems less knowledgeable than would be desire, and refuses to drop this idea of the band's music as "wimpy". It's a term the band says they've had to shake, but it's an inaccurate term, and certainly not a sustainable interview topic. The whole interview stays pretty banal, and you have to wonder why it's been included in Don't Let Our Youth Go to Waste.

The live footage varies widely in both performances and video quality. The highlight easily belongs to the November 1990 set at the University of London, where Galaxie 500 plays to crowd of fans and is filmed as well as in some of the professional footage. The group opens and closes with two of its strongest numbers, "Fourth of July" and "Here She Comes Now" (also a great song to end the collection with), and sustains its show throughout. Wareham claims the group was nervous at the show, but you can't tell it. The other bootlegged show on disc two, at the Point in Atlanta in January of the same year, shows a looser band but a disinterested audience. The show's okay, but not spectacular.

That problem runs throughout the discs. The fascinating part of watching various live performances lies in watching the band re-work their songs, and while Galaxie 500 doesn't re-play their tunes, they don't experiment as dramatically as many acts would. Considering that they're only pulling from three studio albums' worth of material, the band does do a good job presenting a variety of songs (including two previously unreleased numbers), but several songs show up repeatedly. "Don't Let Our Youth Go to Waste" appears three times and gives this DVD set its name; oddly, it's a Jonathan Richman tune and not an original.

The strength of the concert selection comes from the presentation of the band's growth as peformers. In 1989 and 1988, the band looks timid and unsure of itself, and has yet to find its sound. By 1990, Galaxie 500 has arrived. Even when the audience is clueless, the band is strong, and the individual performances are entertaining. You probably won't want to watch the four hours on the discs from beginning to end, but there are quite a few moments worth returning to, and it's a nice compilation for a band that warrants one.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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