Music DVD Reviews: Review of Tell Me Do You Miss Me

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Buy your copy from Tell Me Do You Miss Me: A Film About Luna starstarstarstarstarLabel: Rhino
Released: 2006

If you don’t know who Luna is, you’re one of the reasons why this film – a documentary of the band’s final tour – had to be made. As such, please hang your head accordingly while reading the following review.

When the legendary Boston band Galaxie 500 disbanded, frontman Dean Wareham didn’t take long before forming a new group: Luna. They put out four albums on Elektra and were an inch away from releasing the fifth – it was totally in the can – when they were dropped; rather than giving up, they went indie, issued the album Elektra missed out on, then went on to put out a live album as well as two further studio albums. Finally, in 2005, they decided that huge financial success wasn’t imminent and that it was time to pack it in; as such, they put out a press release announcing their impending break-up and the farewell tour that would precede it.

“Tell Me Do You Miss Me,” directed by Matthew Buzzell, presents a picture of four musicians who know each other intimately and love each other like a family…and, like most families, they spent a fair amount of time bitching and complaining. (Buzzell has done similar portraits for artists as disparate as Jimmy Scott and Daniel Johnston.) Like the Beatles’ “Let It Be” and Wilco’s “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart,” it’s a portrait of a band on the verge of their demise (sure, Wilco pulled out of their tailspin, but it was a damned close call), but the crucial difference is that Luna made a conscious choice to bring their story to an end…and it’s depressing. Even if you don’t know the band’s music, it’s sad as hell to watch a group that’s been together for thirteen years have to sit around and work out their finances before embarking on a world tour. We learn that the only money Luna makes from their tour is from their merchandise; they’re forced to spend virtually every cent they’re earning from the shows to finance the tour in the first place.

So what do we learn about the members of Luna during the course of the film?

Well, guitarist Sean Eden is forever painted as the sad sack of the band; the first time we hear his voice, it’s a moan, which occurs in reaction to his toothbrush having just fallen in the toilet. He’s also shown to be a bit of a drinker, speaking regularly of tremendous hangovers he’s had, and he’s shown sitting at the bar after playing, generally flirting with attractive female fans. (It’s apparently a regular occurrence; at one point during the film, he speaks of an occasion when a former member of the band totally cockblocked him.) Eden’s constantly sniping back and forth with Wareham; sometimes, it’s all in good fun, but we see occasions when there’s definitely very little humor in the air by the end of the conversation, as during a debate between the two of them over where Eden’s parents last saw Luna perform. You’d think Eden would know better than Wareham, given that they’re talking about his parents, but Wareham absolutely, resolutely refuses to give up his assurances. Conversely, however, we learn very little about drummer Lee Wall, who gets the least screen time of any of the members; he’s responsible, however, for one of the most poignant confessions in the film, when he admits that he never has an answer when fans come up to him after a show and ask, “Why aren’t you guys huge?” For whatever reason, Wall isn’t in the same audio commentary with the rest of the band – his comments are edited in as it’s scene-appropriate – but that’s okay; possibly because he’s not expected to sit quietly behind his kit and let Wareham have the spotlight, he talks more there than he does in the actual film. In fact, when the aforementioned argument about Eden’s parents comes onscreen, Wall groans and says, “This is one of those stories where, if I had a dime for every time I’ve heard this story, I’d have about $1.20.”

Bassist Britta Phillips certainly gets more time on camera than Wall, but, then, she and Wareham are a couple, and it’s very much a where-he-goes-I-go relationship. Phillips is, it should be noted, the underrated American alternative rock sex goddess; when the movie opens, she’s in her bra and panties…and when she gets dressed a few seconds later, it’s to put on an approximation of a Catholic school girl uniform, which makes her even more sexy. Did I mention she also has dirty blonde hair, pouty lips, and sculpted eyebrows? Phew. (Here’s your trivial fact for the day: Phillips did the singing voice for Jem, in the classic ‘80s cartoon, “Jem and the Holograms.”)

So what of Dean Wareham? He’s a quirky figure, with his tousled hair and twitchy demeanor, but his singing voice remains angelic; he’s in great form during all the songs Luna performs…and there are plenty of them, between the film and the additional scenes on the DVD. He’s got a bit of an artistic temperament, which we see briefly when a review of the band is read out loud in the van on the way to a gig, but he’s predominantly a melancholy soul, clearly loving what he does even as his frustration at having little choice but to break up the band shows through the cracks. Sure, he gets to spend more time with his kids, but you can tell he’s really depressed about how the band’s fan and critical adoration hasn’t translated into enough sales to keep them afloat financially…and who can blame him?

After the band has played their final concert, they go their separate ways…but each member has a blank look of their face that says, “Okay, now what the hell am I supposed to do?” As such, it’s easy to imagine the quartet getting back together for the occasional reunion gig. Let’s hope it happens sooner than later.

~Will Harris