Dean Wareham - Dean Wareham
The Luna/Galaxie 500 guitarist delivers perfectly crafted, exquisitely delivered songs that lodge in your head for days
No one ever claimed Dean Wareham was a great guitar player, least of all himself. But eavesdropping on his ongoing search for the lost note and perfect chord progression is compelling. With a knack for plaintive melody and lyrical phrasing most other songwriters would sacrifice their beard and plaid shirt for, his inability to quite perfect his mission is the key to his huge appeal.
The songwriting force behind revered proto grunge/dream pop trio Galaxie 500 (unconditional reverence for whom is de rigeur for anyone at college in the 80s) and the massively under-appreciated Luna, Dean Wareham's first solo album proper appears 25 years into his career. This eponymous debut enters a musical landscape awash with artists detachedly delivering wry melodic lyrics over chiming guitars; depending on who you talk to, it’s either a template he either invented or reinvigorated long after Lou Reed abandoned it for muscular guitar rock.
Produced by Jim James of My Morning Jacket, it's a great match, resulting in atmospheres made of guitars, old synths and dry observations from a worldly-wise urbanite that provide an enveloping warmth which simultaneously celebrates the rough edges. The wavering vulnerability of Wareham's voice and guitar are key, but the songwriting itself here is a mixed bag. 'Beat the Devil' does what it can with a pedestrian melody and obvious chords while 'Babes in the Wood' revisits ground covered better on Luna's essential third album, Penthouse.
Thankfully, the good stuff more than makes up for it. The simple mantra of 'Happy and Free' and the album’s centrepiece 'Holding Pattern' (complete with a guitar solo of more glorious abandon than was ever wrestled from an instrument), are the sort of perfectly crafted, exquisitely delivered songs that lodge in your head for days before you relisten just to check it's as good as you thought it was.