Music

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
Amazon
iTunes

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.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image