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Posted by Jen Rajkowski on May 12, 2003 09:45 AM
When I expressed my excitement over the promo of this new effort by Dean, in collaboration with Luna bassist, Britta Phillips to a buddy of mine, they replied " If Dean were to huff helium and yodel show tunes you'd buy it." Now, Dean has a penchant for interesting covers and most of them turn out pretty good (No Regrets, Ride Into the Sun, Outdoor Miner) but I am by no means of the mind that all he touches turns to gold. See for example the almost painful cover of Alice Cooper's Only Women Bleed (relegated to a UK only single of Lovedust). I have not heard his cover version of Led Zeppelin's Dancing Days and to be honest, I think I can live without that one as well. L'Avventura mixes covers of the Doors, Opal, Buffy St. Marie, the Silver Jews, and perhaps to the most surprising effect, Madonna, interspersed with a handful of new songs penned by Dean including two written by Britta.
I large fan of Wareham's efforts with Galaxie 500 and Luna, as well as his occasional solo cover efforts on rare to find '7s and compilations. That said, I found Cagnee and Lacey, an earlier duo effort with then wife Claudia Silver, a little over the top. Accordingly, I was a bit skeptical of another duet driven cd. There is a big difference between the two. Britta has quite a lovely voice, and this cd is actually quite expansive of Dean's normally jangley guitaring; throwing in the mix some faux disco, a little country twang and an actual string quartet Scorchio (playing Tony Visconti's string orchestrations) Tony, in addition to producing, also added the often featured mellotron as well as occasional bass and guitar playing. Visconti is also known for his production work for T-Rex, David Bowie and Thin Lizzy.
The cd opens with the catchy track Night Nurse, a duet between Wareham and Phillips. According to Deanandbritta.com, Night Nurse is England's answer to the cold remedy Nyquil. This song is awash with Deanisms such as "You are the splinter in my eye" (not quite sure how that could possibly be a pleasant sensation), and "My lips are lipped, my lid is flipped". Britta sings in pleasant counterpoint to Dean, something Luna fans have been experiencing with their interpretation of the Serge Gainsbourg/Bridget Bardot number, Bonnie and Clyde (which has become a live favorite) and Mermaid Eyes off of Romantica. Britta's voice is a sweet balance to Dean's wry and moody delivery.
Ginger Snaps, the second track is a tad disco and is quite experimental compared to Wareham's more straightforward rock approach in Luna, though to good effect. Britta and Dean chorus "We're gonna make it after all", a tongue in cheek nod to the duets from the likes of 70's folk such as Olivia Newton John/John Travolta. I am left questioning what exactly "when the sugar winks" may allude to, I have to get me some of that. I was left almost dancing in a non-ironic fashion to this number, it has a great throbbing bass and catchy pop-guitaring. I should be glad "the walls have eyes, but the walls can't speak".
The third number, I Deserve It ,is a Madonna cover in Dean's voicing. Dean laments, "Many miles, many roads I have traveled, fallen down a long the way". Britta has cloyingly sweet backing vocals adding a perfect contrast to Dean's pensive delivery. I found myself singing along to the song on my ipod at the coffee shop as I often do when I become distracted. The gentleman adjacent to me recognized it as a Madonna song and poked me to inquire further, unfortuneatly his musical taste was limited to Madonna. I let him listen to this version an he seemed to enjoy it as well.
Out Walking is one of the pieces written and sung by Britta Phillips. Britta's sleep drenched seductive delivery bolsters what is a lazy, jazzy love song. Britta has a great voice (she was the voice of Jem, the truly outrageous cartoon rockstar) that has been an exciting edition to Luna's repetoire and is further exposed on this cd. I can usually convince men I date who may not necessarily be Luna fans to attend shows by promise of her singing. That said, Britta's not just a pretty face, she plays a great melodic bass and is a talented singer/songwriter.
Moonshot is a lesser known protest song by Buffy St. Marie originally covered by Dean circa Galaxie 500, a haunting and beautiful piece delivered by Dean who also perfoms a "perfect 12 sting solo" that is incredibly atmospheric. Dean's singing has never been better, capturing the almost, well, spacey nature of the song. In the next song, Hear the Wind Blow, Scorchio supplies a sweeping string arrangement to this Opal song of night, lovers' promises, and sweet nothings.
Your Baby is sung by Phillips and was originally available as a demo on her home page, appearing here touched up and featuring her sultry sleepy voice. Britta sings, "You make me happy, come on let's, do it again". There is no hidden meaning. Unlike Dean's seductions (hypnotizing a pancake, for example), Britta's lyrics are straight to the point, instead of playing a game of Pup Tent, she goes right for the kill. Sexy teasing shrouded behind her candy sweet voice.
Threw it Away is an Angel Corpus Christi song off of her release, White Courtesy Telephone. Dean's guitar adds an interesting layer to this cover making it more textured and brooding than the original. Britta sings Knives From Bavaria, the track that is my favorite piece off the album. She sings "I dreamed you swallowed a pill called Euphoria" in a lazy pre-coffee alto that is accented by the backing addition of Dean's equally sleepy baritone. "Drink me and drown me, I like you I do"- a Lynchian sort of love song. A different version of this song, with different lyrics was used in the yet to be released film Piggie (featuring Dean as the leading male, a heroin addict/credit card thief).
Random Rules is a bittersweet story of adultery written by David Berman of The Silver Jews. My favorite line is "They make it so you can't shake hands when they make your hands shake." This song is oddly beautiful in its sadness and is sung by Wareham.
Dean foreshadowed the cover of Indian Summer, this time the Doors version, when I last saw them live at NYC's Knitting Factory. "There are a lot of songs called Indian Summer" he quipped before launching into Luna's cover of Beat Happening's song of the same name. What's next? Lee Hazlewood? Pedro the Lion? Is this, as their site touts, a "soundtrack to get lucky to"? L'Avventura is indeed a perfect post-brunch, mimosa scented, balmy Sunday afternoon excuse to get back under the sheets.

On Fire | 30

A 30th anniversary celebration of Galaxie 500's masterpiece

On Fire 30 CD sleeve (design: John Conley)
Buy On Fire | 30