Dean Wareham

I Have Nothing to Say to the Mayor of L.A.

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I Have Nothing to Say to the Mayor of L.A. Review

by Tim Sendra

After a seven-year songwriting drought punctuated by soundtrack work and a Luna reunion, Dean Wareham decided to get back to penning more archly witty, offhandedly trenchant tunes. Booking studio time in advance so he'd have a deadline, he came up with enough good ones to team with Papercuts' Jason Quever and longtime musical foil Britta Phillips to lay them down on tape. I Have Nothing to Say to the Mayor of L.A. is the resulting album, and it's prime Wareham from top to bottom. The songs, sound, and performances all come together with the lyrical simplicity of Luna, the echoing melancholy of Galaxie 500, and the cinematic sweep of Dean & Britta to form something familiar, yet still vibrant. Quever's production is a welcome change from the glossy sheen of Wareham's previous solo album; instead, there is an uncluttered, organic feel to the music that suits it well. Wareham is in fine voice, having given away none of the tremulous wonder he has always transmitted, now with a little more aged wisdom around the edges. The instrumentation is subtle, with the occasional cheapo drum machine or woody organ bubbling around the edges and Wareham's guitar wrangling sometimes taking center stage. These factors provide a perfect landing spot for the songs. Not only has Wareham not lost his knack for a sneaky melody and a bookishly funny couplet, nearly every song has a hook that's hard to detangle or a line that brings a knowing chuckle. "Robin & Richard" definitely has both of those; "The Past Is Our Plaything" does too. The latter also quietly slips in some deeply emotional lyrical content, one of Wareham's favorite tricks. Other songs pull off the same balancing act, delivering exactly what fans of his work would want. A few tunes take little side trips from the established Wareham template. The Suicide-influenced "Red Hollywood" and "The Last Word" are character sketches of real people, blacklisted actor John Garfield and Karl Marx's daughter Eleanor, respectively, and "Why Are We in Vietnam?" tackles politics in a suitably opaque manner. Along with all the originals, Wareham and his band of collaborators recorded two covers -- the lost psychedelic classic "Under Skys" by Lazy Smoke and "Duchess" by Scott Walker -- and they each fit perfectly with the rest of the album, perched somewhere between the direct approach of Luna and the opaqueness of Galaxie 500. The entire album sits comfortably in that spot, much more so than Wareham's first solo album. This is where he should be and where he sounds best. He's had a long career, dotted with highlights that rank among the best music of his contemporaries. I Have Nothing to Say to the Mayor of L.A. is another one.

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