Over the weekend, Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips played a couple of shows in Asia (Taipei and Hong Kong) in which the pair performed songs from the back catalogue of Galaxie 500, the band fronted by Wareham that came to indie rock prominence during the late eighties. From the moment their Taipei show on Saturday evening kicked off with the arching dream pop of “Flowers”, we knew we were witnessing something quite incredible — this was, after all, the closest we may ever come to the Galaxie 500 reunion we have all been pining for. Dean, looking every bit like the weathered music veteran that he is, was in good spirits and seemed genuinely psyched to be revisiting his former band’s songs with Britta and drummer Anthony LaMarca. All the sediments of memory revolving Galaxie 500 just kept flooding back in that hour and a half — the spacey everything’s-swirling-slow aesthetics and the hallucinatory texture of the music, Dean’s ability to make the most apathetic concerns, such as standing in line outside a convenience store (“Strange”), sound absolutely sublime.
Before he launched into “Fourth of July”, Dean made a wisecrack about being in Taipei on the same day as pop diva Lady Gaga. Galaxie 500 didn’t last long as a band, but it is obvious enough to me that the music of their three near-perfect albums will last well beyond after Lady Gaga goes out of currency, if based on the strengths of “Fourth of July”. Like many Galaxie 500 favorites, “Fourth of July” abounds in tedium and restless mysteries. But there is a sense of uplift that the song invokes rather emphatically, the celebratory music breaking through the topography of loneliness disguised as misanthropic bravado (“I stayed at home on the Fourth of July, and I pulled the shades so I didn’t have to see the sky/ I decided to have a bed-in, but I forgot to invite anybody”).
After closing the main set with “Fourth of July”, Dean and Britta returned to the stage with a beautiful rendition of Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Keep It With Mine”, a cover version they have earlier recorded for the musical score to the 13 Most Beautiful: Songs For Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests DVD. I have always had special associations with this wry little ballad written by Dylan, first hearing the song via Bettie Serveet’s awesome cover on the I Shot Andy Warhol soundtrack when I was a teenager quite some years before I would be exposed to Dylan’s original on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3. “ Back then, I guess I really kinda identified with the flippant attitude towards romance (“I can’t help it if you might think that it’s odd, if I say I don’t love you for what you are but for what you’re not”) in Dylan’s lyrics; now that I’m older, I’m not so sure about that sort of sentiment. Dean & Britta’s lovely version of the song immerses one in a more reflective mood, touched with a more mature ambivalence and a strange hopefulness that indeed, “everybody will help you discover what you set out to find”. – Keith.