Familiarity with Dean Wareham‘s work (in both Luna and Galaxie 500) requires plenty of bit of indie cred, but probably also a good deal of age. As such, the ending of Luna’s touted selling point “the best band you’ve never heard of” might actually fit more so on Wareham than most other bands who get a similar tag. Maybe that makes his self-titled album this generation’s first impression of Wareham; if so, it’s quite a good one.
On the downside (for pop audiences), Wareham’s vocals have a bit of a David Lynch-ian, nasally tone, with some wavering pitch at times, as well – more subtle than Lynch’s, and not particularly distracting, but may be partly what keeps him in critically acclaimed, publicly under-appreciated circles. His signature guitar sounds warrant this acclaim, though, and help paint the picture his lyrics describe: like “The Dancer Disappears’” perspective of looking back in the “twilight” of a life lived in not only indie rock, but “psychedelic” dream pop worlds: [LISTEN]
His willingness to “leave the whole wide world behind” isn’t the rant of a jaded curmudgeon, nor the know-it-all sneer of a typical pseudo-wise geezer. Instead, it’s marked by humility and optimism that both actually feel heavily youthful – partially since he is not only experiencing an end, but also a beginning. All of this is helped along by his well thought out twinkles and later smitten lyrics. This optimism carries forward into “Beat the Devil,” although with a more realistic description of evil’s influence in the world, and how we can “beat” it: [LISTEN]
The whole album follows a general 50s-pop-ballad format, but not specifically enough to remind of any particular past radio hits. He then mixes in intricate guitar lines and minor electronic effects that would be at home on a Postal Service record, and wraps it in chord progressions that don’t get boring within 30 predictable seconds and sentiments both poignant and universal – which can be found together in the track “Love is Not a Roof Against the Rain,” both in the title lyric and in the line “what have I done with my life?
Dean Wareham is never overbearing in any one emotion, and perfectly enjoyable if you don’t require your singers to be veterans of The Voice.