[Warning: This story may contain trace elements of brags.]
Reading Black Postcards, the rock and roll memoir written by former Galaxie 500 and Luna frontman, Dean Wareham. I'm only about halfway through the book, but so far it's been personally interesting to read about his musical coming-of-age. Galaxie 500 released its first album, Today, right around the time I started seriously listening to music, and I was a big fan of theirs and many of the other bands typically mentioned in the same sentence. So it's fun when Dean name-checks many of the prevailing figures of "college rock" during the late 80s and early 90s, including Gerard Cosloy (founder of Homestead Records, co-owner of Matador Records--at my first NYC rock show, I saw his band, Envelope, play on a bill with Lois Maffeo and Red Red Meat at CBGB's), Kramer (founder of Shimmy-Disc records and member of the bands Bongwater and B.A.L.L., among others), The Happy Flowers, Beat Happening, The Sundays, and that other band from Boston, The Pixies.
And while it's been nice to have my memory jogged and my nostalgia stroked a bit, the most striking thing about the memoir so far has been what a completely selfish, and remorseless creep Dean Wareham seems to be. He often speaks of having his feelings hurt--by a pretty girl he incorrectly presumed was interested in him, or by an unkind review--while mercilessly and needlessly excoriating anyone whose music he didn't love, or anyone who held an opinion contrary to his self-interest. At times his naif-like prose style makes it difficult to tell if his victim act is meant to be self-mocking, or if his disinterest in other people's feelings is a device meant to embody, rather than reflect on, his callous youth, but the more I read the more I think that would be giving him too much credit as a writer. Whenever I read a negative impression of a public figure I admire a ton--this person is difficult to work with, is kind of an asshole in person, fucks children, etc.--I try to look at it holistically and tell myself that these stories sometimes get circulated by people who have felt slighted in some way, or have an axe to grind. However, it makes it very hard to be open-minded when the negative impression is actually written by the public figure himself.
Dean Wareham was especially hard on his former bandmates from Galaxie 500, Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang. He paints them as spoiled Manhattan elitists, while he's just a simple kid from New Zealand who moved the rough-and-tumble Upper East Side (64th and Lexington--that's practically Harlem!) and attended Dalton boarding school and Harvard University, two of our nation's most humble educational institutions. Wareham has perfect recall of every time Damon and Naomi paid for their own hotel room with their own money--information that would be trivial if its constant mention weren't so loaded with judgment--but views his decision to record a song alone for a Shimmy-Disc compilation barely worth mentioning, to the reader or to his bandmates. As I read more, I started thinking, "I wish I could apologize to Damon and Naomi."
And you know how sometimes, when you think about someone you haven't thought about for a long time, they just kind of magically appear like you were borrowing David Blain's mind? Because, out of the blue, I received the following text message yesterday afternoon:
Want to meet Damon & Naomi? We're heading to the Brooklyn flea mrkt in a bit.
It was from an unrecognized number, which gave the text an extra touch of spookiness, if text messages can actually be spooky. (No offense, the movie One Missed Call.) Eventually I figured out it was from my friend and old roommate, Ben, whom I haven't spoken with in so long his number is no longer in my phone's address book. Really, nothing about this text made sense. Ben couldn't have known I was reading Black Postcards unless he, like me, was borrowing David Blaine's mind. I was in Manhattan, so I couldn't meet up, but I called him to point out this amazing(ly boring to everyone but me) coincidence. Ben works in the music industry and had also read the book so he was curious about my opinion of it. When I told him, he laughed, and made me repeat it on speaker phone so Damon and Naomi could hear me call their former bandmate an "unrepentant prick." It was the next best thing to apologizing.*
*Ben was also amazed by how totally lacking in self-awareness Wareham seems to be in this memoir, but added that in Wareham's assessment of Damon and Naomi he detected a bit of anti-Semitism. I don't necessarily agree with this interpretation but I have to give Ben credit for refusing to settle on believing Dean Wareham is simply a jerk. He ended the conversation by saying, "wait until you get to the part where he's cheating on his wife," as if to say, "If you like being mad at the way he mistreats his band, you'll LOVE the way he mistreats his spouse!"