A bewitching memoir about the lures, torments, and rewards of making and performing music in the indie rock world
Dean Wareham's seminal bands Galaxie 500 and Luna have long been adored by a devoted cult following and extolled by rock critics. Now he brings us the blunt, heartbreaking, and wickedly charismatic account of his personal journey through the music world-the artistry and the hustle, the effortless success and the high living, as well as the bitter pills and self-inflicted wounds. It captures, unsparingly, what has happened to the entire ecosystem of popular music over a time of radical change, when categories such as "indie" and "alternative" meant nothing to those creating the music, but everything to the major labels willing to pay for it. Black Postcards is a must-have for Wareham's many fans, anyone who has ever been in a band, or the listeners who have taken an interest in the indie rock scene over the last twenty years.
In his grumpy but informative memoir, Wareham, the lead guitarist and vocalist for seminal independent rock bands Galaxie 500 and Luna, recounts the highs and lows of his life as a musician. While Wareham's narrative voice is not particularly warm, he is refreshingly frank (though quite defensive) about the personal conflicts that broke up Galaxie 500, as well as about his later, somewhat more conventional rock and roll antics, which included drug use and infidelity. For most readers, the heart of the book will come in the first hundred odd pages, which focus on the financially difficult but artistically fruitful run of Galaxie 500, featuring Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang, in the late 1980s and early '90s. The stories of nights spent on the floors of college radio station managers and recording classic albums in three days are the stuff of do-it-yourself legend, and at its best, the book serves as a clear narrative of the travails of independent musicians in the days before mp3s and Pitchfork Media (which gets a snarky shout-out). Wareham gets a lot of mileage out of frustration with booking agents, band mates and radio stations, and over the course of the book, one gets a prevailing sense of how truly difficult it can be for some great musicians to break through the mass media wall.
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Surprisingly Soothing Read...
As a longtime Luna and Galaxie 500 fan, I had plenty of reasons to read a bit more about the bands that defined my 20's and 30's in so many ways.
But 'Black Postcards' is a lot more than a simple rock-diary of a lead singer and a few bands. Wareham's writing is spare and honest - but always entertaining. The book is as much about the day-to-day challenges of modern 'indie' rock (whatever that means) - it's about the creative process, friendship, collaboration, growing up, growing older, and moving on.
All great creative thinkers know when it's time to tear down their lives and start over - it's this ability to change, to move on, and to endure that makes Wareham's story so compelling.
Highly recommended for both fans of music and fans of biography. Bravo.