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Plexifilm presents
Galaxie 500: Don't Let Our Youth Go to Waste 1987-1991 (2004)

"I don't wanna stay at your party
I don't wanna talk with your friends
I don't wanna vote for your president
I just wanna be your tugboat captain
It's a place I'd like to be..."

- lyric from Tugboat

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: June 28, 2004

Stars: Dean Wareham, Damon Krukowski, Naomi Yang
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 03h:55m:00s
Release Date: June 29, 2004
UPC: 082354001827
Genre: music


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B+C+C D

DVD Review

The independent rock scene of the late 1980s produced a wealth of great music, the good bulk of it issued forth by bands tha very few people had heard of at the time, and even fewer remember today. One of those unheralded, unsung greats was the Boston trio Galaxie 500, a band who described their own music as "two parts wimpy, one part atmosphere, with a dash of pastoral imagery", and consisting of transplanted New Zealander Dean Wareham (vocalist/guitarist), Naomi Yang (bass) and drummer Damon Krukowski (drums).

Galaxie 500 churned out a small catalog of distinctively moody, trippy slow-motion music built around Wareham's slightly whiny tenor and repetitive dreamy guitar noodlings, anchored by the laid back rhythm section of Yang and Krukowski, who often played with such tempered restraint it seemed that Wareham was always on the verge of taking off somewhere without them.

The title of this two-disc set from Plexifilm, which is billed as a "comprehensive visual document", comes courtesy of a Jonathan Richman song that the band covered and pretty much made their own; its chant of quiet desperation seems like an appropriate banner under which to gather up a wide range of videos and concert footage meant to sum up the entire career of a band in just short of four hours.

Its a daunting task, and the bitter pill is that the quality of the material available on this set is not exactly the best—in terms of audio/video—and so ultimately the grand sendoff is tempered with sub-standard recording. Tough break for the band and fans alike. One one hand it's a nice testament to the group, but on the other it's a pity that all we have left to enjoy them by are some out of focus concerts with mediocre to poor sound.

The best content overall here are the four music videos the band made (all directed by Sergio Huidor), including the one for their first "big" single, Tugboat, which is an achingly simple plea that Wareham plaintively wails, and when he hits the chorus its hard to tell whether he's in love or just some weird stalker-type. It still holds up as just a great all-around tune—part of that discordantly jangly warbly loner genre—and in my mind is pretty indicative of the whole Galaxie 500 sound. All of the videos have the same kind of disjointed television images intercut with fleeting, blurry shots of the band, and the effect is not entirely unpleasant, but if you watched the four clips without sound you might be hard pressed to know which was which.

The videos only run about 15 minutes, so the remainder of the 3+ hours are loaded with an assortment of concert footage from all points of their career, including a 1989 performance at a Boston school where the band is nestled beneath a basketball net on a tiny stage that looks more like sitcom set than a concert venue. As I mentioned, the audio/video quality is a little loose on some of these segments, so the appreciation of these early performances is probably more geared toward the Galaxie 500 faithful.

As a "comprehensive visual document," the one thing this set does do extremely well is to showcase the band's musical growth over a few short years, and by the time we see them recording a set for an appearance on London television in 1990, they have dramatically grown into a jangly and ethereal trio full of identifiable nerdy angst.

In other words, very cool stuff, indeed.

Here's the breakout of material:



DISC ONE:

MUSIC VIDEOS
Tugboat
When Will You Come Home
Blue Thunder
Fourth of July

LIVE ARCHIVE
Middle East, Cambridge, Massachusetts (13m:05s)
March 19, 1988
Oblivious
I Can't Believe It's Me
Back in Your Life (unreleased)
Buzz in My Head (unreleased)

Commonwealth School, Boston, Massachusetts (16m:17s)
April 21, 1989
Tugboat
Temperature's Rising
When Will You Come Home

Kennel Club, San Francisco, California (13m:50s)
March 28, 1990
Flowers
Blue Thunder
Decomposing Trees

Club Lingerie, Hollywood, California (24m:45s)
March 30, 1990
Snowstorm
Plastic Bird
Victory Garden
Pictures
Ceremony

Kennel Club, San Francisco, California (28m:15s)
October 15, 1990
Summertime
Spook
Hearing Voices
Don't Let Our Youth Go to Waste
Melt Away

Taping For UK Television (18m:45s)
February 9, 1990Tell Me
Strange
Here She Comes Now
Interview with the band

DISC TWO:

BOOTLEGS
The Point, Atlanta, Georgia (41m:16s)
January 26, 1990
Decomposing Trees
Pictures
Don't Let Our Youth Go to Waste
Blue Thunder
Plastic Bird
When Will You Come Home
Ceremony

ULU (University of London), London, England (01h:00m:54s)
November 15, 1990
Fourth of July
Hearing Voices
Summertime
Don't Let Our Youth Go to Waste
Spook
When Will You Come Home
Sorry
Melt Away
Listen the Snow is Falling
Blue Thunder
Here She Comes Now


Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: It's a mixed bag, with the level of the image quality a direct correlation to when and by whom it was recorded. All the material is presented in 1.33:1 full frame, and obviously the four music videos look the best—filled with intentionally fuzzy and arty visuals. It is the concert footage (bootleg and otherwise) that really looks amateurish, and since most of it is, this shouldn't be a surprise. Shaky cameras, focus problems, and poor lighting are recurrent issues, so those expecting crisp, clean concerts will be sorely disappointed.

It's not necessarily the fault of Plexifilm, but like the audio, it is coarse-looking more often than not. Their transfer of bad source material is about as good as it gets.

Image Transfer Grade: C+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: I so wanted the audio mix to even be simply "good", but instead the variance sometimes fall into the "really bad" category, and I actually tried to force feed myself a lie that it really isn't all that bad. But it is. The audio quality spread across this set is varied, if nothing else—ranging from decent 2.0 surround on the music videos to barely passable camcorder audio on some of the fan-captured bootleg concert footage.

One listen to the University of London bootleg set will have you wishing the sound quality could have been even remotely better—because the performance there is just about perfect and the audio is the worst on this set. Diehards will appreciate the opportunity to see the band in a variety of settings, performing an eclectic set of music, but I imagine there will be a slight twinge that the sound quality wasn't better.

Plexifilm had admittedly little to work with, in some cases, so in that regard the inadequacies of the transfer fall more toward the source material than anything else. It's still a tough listen, especially when I know that the music is so damn good.

Audio Transfer Grade: C

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Music/Song Access with 24 cues and remote access
Packaging: Double alpha
Picture Disc
2 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: I consider all of the music presented here (live and video) to be part of the whole enchilada of what Galaxie 500 was, so as far am I'm concerned all of the material on this two-disc is part of the main event, and not merely "extras".

Really the only thing that should show up under the extras column is a deluxe booklet containing photos and an new interview with all three members, conducted by Yo La Tengo's James McNew.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

Galaxie 500 never reached the kind of success they seemed to deserve, but Plexifilm has honored the band's legacy with this two-disc collection of videos and rarely seen concert footage.

The audio and video presentation is a little spotty, but if you squint through the rough spots you just might catch a glimpse of one of the coolest bands you likely never heard of.

 


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