Galaxie 500

Don't Let Our Youth Go to Waste: 1987-1991 [DVD]

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Thanks to the comprehensive box set and the Copenhagen live album, Galaxie 500's recorded work is as documented as it can get -- but in an inspired move, relying both on the band's own archives and contacts found via fans on the Internet, the Plexifilm DVD company assembled this comprehensive two-disc collection of video footage, concert and otherwise, from the band's four years together. The actual videos themselves -- four in total, directed by Dean Wareham's Harvard classmate Sergio Huidor -- would have been worthy of a brief DVD on their own. Huidor's apparently simple but effective blend of handheld close-ups, warm smeared colors, interspliced found footage that both comments on the lyrics and plays against the atmosphere with often violent results and more, gave the band an immediately identifiable visual identity, with the negative image of "Blue Thunder" and the frenetic collages of "Fourth of July" in particular standing out. That's only the starting point of disc one, though, with the rest given over to professional and semi-professional footage from five different shows, two in Boston (including their first paying show ever, with the nerves both audible and visible), two in San Francisco, and one in L.A., plus a U.K. TV appearance and interview. The show snippets themselves nicely capture the evolution of the band's sound and will interest hardcore fans enough on their own, especially given that most, thanks to band producer Kramer's efforts as soundman, sound wonderful no matter the recording conditions or club PA. One can readily hear the interplay between the three members resulting in longer and more involved performances from show to show, with highlights including excellent takes of "Blue Thunder," "Summertime," and particularly "Don't Let Our Youth Go to Waste" in San Francisco, and "Ceremony" in Los Angeles. That said, visually it's very much a mixed bag, with late- '80s video technology, often murky club lighting, and the band's static stage presence meaning that many of the performances almost feel better simply being heard, rather than seen -- ultimately the club footage is a well-intentioned souvenir, not a gripping sound-and-vision experience. The U.K. appearance is an interesting diversion, though, featuring Damon Krukowski -- having exchanged drums for guitar -- and including a grand take on the Velvet Underground's "Here She Comes Now," while the amusingly awkward interview has Wareham often looking bizarrely demonic thanks to a dark lighting scheme. The second disc, meanwhile, consists of two complete shows from 1990, in London and Atlanta. As with the other footage, the sound is fine (much more for the Atlanta show, though), and the sets and performances are different enough to make them nice complements -- a touch ragged and drunken in Atlanta, but with fantastic performances of "Don't Let Our Youth Go to Waste" and "When Will You Come Home" (both more straightforward in London), along with "Fourth of July," an absolutely fantastic "Summertime," and "Melt Away" and, in her one vocal turn on the set, Naomi Yang's lead on "Listen, the Snow Is Falling" as the highlights. As with the club footage, though, visually there can be problems, especially since both sources are from audience bootleg cameras. For Atlanta, the handheld quality results in long spans where nothing can be seen and gives the viewer a generally queasy feeling when trying to watch, while the London show, if more stably filmed, is at a greater distance from the stage and suffers from noticeable graininess. Instead of a commentary track as such, there's a fine interview with all three members regarding all the footage conducted by James McNew, Yo La Tengo bassist, and early Galaxie 500 obsessive's, included in a booklet along with a slew of archival photos. Anecdotal and well-spirited, it's a nice contrast to the circumstances of the band's demise, and presumably puts the final seal on the group's efforts -- unless murmured rumors of a reunion come to pass.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Title/Composer Performer Time
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blue highlight denotes track pick