There is no doubting the legendary status of Dean Wareham, whose band Galaxie 500 in the late eighties defined a gentle low-fi poetic brilliance and melodic genius that influenced and enhanced the shoegaze/dream pop genre.
After Galaxie 500 burned ever so brightly between 1987 and 1991, releasing three landmark albums in the process, Wareham formed Luna with members of The Feelies and The Chills, and Dean and Britta, both bands with his wife Britta Phillips. Wareham has now made a surprise announcement of a new solo album, ‘I Have Nothing to Say to the Mayor of L.A.’, for release on 15 October 2021. And with a spark to start the fire, a video for the track ‘The Past Is Our Plaything’ has just been released to whet the appetite.
And what a glorious amuse bouche. There is a palpable thrill down the spine as Wareham’s distinctive vocals set off with a line from the title of the album and his trademark astute and bitingly raw lyrics:
I have nothing to say to the mayor of L.A.
at seven o’clock in the morn
I have no retort for the king of New York
it’s late and I feel so forlorn
tonight I am playing my three-thirty-five
while gazing at your photograph
we’re living inside a beautiful dream
a winter where memory sleeps
the past is our plaything, she cannot talk back
we’re making it up as we go
the dandy is fashioned to crash and to burn
as blue turns to grey
There is a self deprecatory sense of humour, an archness and wry pose, but above all there is Wareham’s ear for indelible melodies that have a graceful, breathtaking beauty. The accompanying video, directed by Alexandra Cabral, is a simple and enigmatic performance piece that, like the memories the song builds on, is a hazy and dappled affair:
What a glorious delight it is to welcome Wareham back.
‘I Have Nothing to Say to the Mayor of L.A.’ is available to pre-order in a variety of packages here.
Until this album was recorded, Wareham hadn’t written a song in seven years, but nonetheless continued to perform and engage. He had made a soundtrack with his wife, Britta Phillips (for the Noah Baumbach film Mistress America, from 2015), put out two releases with his recently reunited group Luna (A Sentimental Education, a covers album, and A Place of Greater Safety, an instrumental EP, both from 2017) as well doing regular touring and performing, which spilled into the pandemic, when he and Phillips began doing livestreams from their home in Los Angeles. A collection largely culled from those sets, Quarantine Tapes, was released in 2020.
Produced and mixed by Jason Quever
Recorded at Panoramic House, November 2020
Additional recording by Britta Phillips in Echo Park
Mastered by Scott Hull at Masterdisk
Songs written by Dean Wareham except “Under Skys” (Polliano-Mazzotta) and “Duchess”
Cover painting by Chris Lux
Art Direction: Matt Fishbeck
Dean: vox, guitars
Roger Brogan: drums
Britta Phillips: bass, vocals, keys
Jason Quever: guitar, organ, cello, drums on “Under Skys”
The Past Is Our Plaything
The Last Word
Robin & Richard
The Corridors Of Power
As Much As It Was Worth
Why Are We in Vietnam?
Feature Photograph: Kourosh Erfanian